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BACH HANDEL .... 37 










Music . . . . . 275 



BACH Frontispiece 









WEBER 214 


VERDI 262 


THIS work does not pretend to give a 
complete presentation of musical biography. 
Many of the lesser composers who did not 
influence musical history in any way have 
been omitted from its pages, or dismissed 
with a mere mention. It has been the 
effort of the author, however, to bring to- 
gether the lives of the great composers in 
such a manner that the average reader (with- 
out any technical knowledge of music) may 
understand how their work aided in musical 
development, and in what degree their schools 
were interwoven. In order to make this point 
more clear, the chronological order has not 
been adhered to where a departure from it 
seemed to make more definite the influence 
of a composer. 

Louis C. ELSON. 




COMPOSERS, in the modern sense of the 
word, could only come into being after 
music had changed from a very free art 
into a science which admitted of rules, and 
which it was possible to teach. There was, 
to be sure, a certain order of progressions 
demanded in the old melodies which charmed 
the ancient world, but, as all the music was 
probably melodic, as there were no chords or 
combinations of parts, such men as Sopho- 
cles or Euripides, who set their tragedies 

1 2 Great Composers and Their Work. 

to tunes, such reformers as Saint Ambrose or 
Saint Gregory, who evolved set progressions 
of melody, and such enthusiastic bard-musi- 
cians as the old Troubadours or Minne- 
singers could scarcely be called "compos- 
ers," even though they were famous in 

It was a little before the year 1000 that 
the combination of different musical parts 
into a harmonious whole began to be 
studied as a science. The first results 
were not exactly what we should call har- 
monious, however. Guido of Arezzo, Hue- 
bald of St. Amands, and a number of others 
were engaged during the tenth and eleventh 
centuries in producing some of the most 
hideous music that civilized ears were ever 
forced to listen to, a continuous succession 
of fourths and fifths. 

Probably the first party who fairly de- 
serves the name of a musical composer was 
a Frenchman, a TrouveTe (as the Trouba- 

Preliminary The Old Flemish School. 15 

herdess, but the lord of the village has 
seen Marion, and wants her for himself. 
He therefore gives Robin a good beating, 
and drives him away. Marion is more cour- 
ageous than her swain, and when his lord- 
ship endeavors to set her on his horse she 
scratches and bites with such good will that 
he goes away discomfited. Robin comes 
back full of gasconades of what he was 
going to do, but, as he sees the noble re- 
turning, his boasting suddenly dwindles, and 
again he proves discretion the better part of 
valor by a hasty exit. The end is a happy 
one ; the lord of the village comes to the 
conclusion that Marion is too much of a 
termagant for him, that the grapes are very 
sour, and Robin is permitted to marry the 
woman of his choice. At the end, as in 
a modern opera, the chorus come in, just 
as they are wanted, with wedding gifts, fat 
geese, sausages, etc., and the opera ends 
with a general merrymaking. Beyond the 

1 6 Great Composers and Their Work. 

opera, and the few facts cited, there is little 
known of this Adam of musical composition. 

He had, however, put the leaven into the 
meal ; after his works music could hardly go 
back to the dry succession of fourths and 
fifths, and men began to search for rules for 
the new science which Jean de Muris, a doc- 
tor of the University of Paris in the four- 
teenth century, soon called "counterpoint," 
from the fact that "point" (or note) was 
written against "point." 

England, at this early time, seems to have 
produced composers of much merit, but they 
were chiefly in the monasteries, and modestly 
withheld their names from the public. A 
mysterious English figure looms up at the 
very beginning of the fifteenth century, a 
man who won esteem in continental Europe, 
who wrote celebrated compositions (which 
have almost entirely disappeared), who pro- 
duced a book on music (also lost), a table of 
musical intervals (Morley says "Dunstable 

Preliminary The Old Flemish School. 17 

made a musical dunce-table"), and wrote a 
geographical tract which still exists. For 
the rest, we only know that this English 
composer was also a mathematician and an 
astrologer. He died in 1458. Morley (who 
wrote in 1595) might truly have added to his 
play of words the fact that the reputation of 
Dunstable was remarkably unstable, for he is 
one of the haziest figures among the early 

We have now reached the epoch when 
an entire race of composers came upon the 
scene. They arose in what is now Belgium, 
and formed the School of the Netherlands, 
or the " Flemish School." The first of their 
line, William Dufay, has been called "The 
Father of Music," and in one sense deserves 
that title, since he was the first skilful com- 
poser. He was born at Chimay about the 
year 1400, according to the researches of the 
learned Father F. X. Haberl. He was in 
Rome about 1428, became canon of Cam- 

1 8 Great Composers and Their Work. 

bray, in the Flemish country, about 1450, 
and died there Nov. 27, 1474. It is note- 
worthy that nearly all the Flemish composers 
seem to have been called into Italy by the 
Catholic Church, and nearly all of them seem 
to have returned to their native country in 
their old age. This early school of composi- 
tion loved intricacy and complexity; the 
composers treated music very much as if 
it had been mathematics, and their compo- 
sitions seem dry and utterly without emo- 
tion to modern ears. Yet they must have 
felt a degree of inspiration in working in 
the new art. Dufay requested in his last 
illness that after he had received extreme 
unction, and the final agony had set in, a 
choir should gather around his bed and sing 
his "Ave Regina," a proposition which he 
defeated by dying suddenly in the midst of 
the night. It was sung in the chapel at 
his obsequies, however. 

It would be next to impossible, in a short 

Preliminary The Old Flemish School. 19 

work, to give even the names of the com- 
posers who won distinction in the Flemish 
school. John Ockhegem (also spelled " Ock- 
enheim "), who was in the service of Louis 
XL, and died about 1513, was the first 
teacher of composition of any renown. But 
the bright particular star among the compos- 
ers of the fifteenth century was Josquin Des 
Pres (Josquin, or " Jossekyn," being a Flem- 
ish diminutive meaning "Johnnie"), who died 
either in 1515 or in 1521. Martin Luther 
said of him, " Other composers are ruled by 
notes, but Des Pres rules the notes." Des 
Pres is the first of the skilful composers who 
allows something of emotion to enter into 
his work. At this time music was so en- 
tirely intellectual that some of the subjects 
chosen for treatment would astonish a mod- 
ern ; the genealogy of Christ, for example, 
was set to music more than once. Des 
Pres was a good teacher as well as the first 
composer of genius that the world possessed. 

2O Great Composers and Their Work. 

Orlando di Lasso, was, however, the cul- 
mination of the Flemish school. He was 
born in 1520 in Mons, in Hainault, and his 
original name was Di Lattre, but, his father 
being convicted of counterfeiting and pub- 
licly disgraced, he changed his cognomen. 
As a child he had a beautiful voice, so won- 
derful that he was twice kidnapped on account 
of it. In his twelfth year the Viceroy of 
Sicily, Ferdinand Gonzaga, took him to Italy 
to have him trained in music. At eighteen 
he went to Naples, and taught music there 
for three years. He had afterwards a good 
position in Rome, but hearing that his parents 
were very ill he at once returned home, only 
to find them both dead. He now visited 
England and France, and then - settled in 
Antwerp. He seems to have been a most 
genial character, and every one who knew 
him appears to have been fond of him. He 
was particularly a favorite with the aristoc- 
racy, and it was not long before his friend, 

Preliminary The Old Flemish School. 21 

Duke Albert V., of Bavaria, induced him to 
take up his abode in Munich. He had a 
large band of musicians at his disposal here, 
and was honored as no musician had been up 
to that time. 

His Munich career began in 1557, and his 
fame began to spread all over Europe. Every 
potentate in Christendom seems to have sent 
him some decoration or other species of 
homage. He received more honorary titles 
than any musician has ever carried before or 
since. His works were reverently collected 
and richly bound. His 2,337 compositions 
are still preserved in Munich, and his seven 
Penitential Psalms may be seen there most 
sumptuously encased in silver and morocco. 
In his later years he received a peculiar call 
to Paris. Charles IX. had probably become 
conscience-stricken after the Massacre of St. 
Bartholomew ; he slept little, and seemed in 
constant mental distress. Some of his cour- 
tiers thereupon sent for Orlando di Lasso to 

22 Great Composers and Their Work, 

charm away his troubles with beautiful 
music. Before the composer could reach 
Paris the king was dead, and Di Lasso re- 
traced his steps to Munich. The last years 
of his life were, however, very discontented, 
for Duke Albert was dead, and the old 
composer, the spoiled child of Fortune, 
imagined that he was slighted by every 
one because there was no longer the ex- 
aggerated homage of the "good old times." 
He died in Munich in 1594, and his epitaph 
gives a very good example of a Latin pun ; 
it runs 

" Hie ille est Lassus, lassum qui recreat orbem," 

which is but half translated by " Here lies 
aweary, he who a weary world refreshed." 

To illustrate the esteem in which the com- 
poser was held even by the common people, 
it may be here stated that the populace of 
Munich believed that Di Lasso's setting of 
" Gustate et Videte " had the power to cause 

Preliminary The Old Flemish School. 23 

stormy weather to clear and the sun to shine 
through the clouds. 

The Flemish school had lasted nearly two 
centuries, and had brought forth about three 
hundred composers of more or less fame, but 
the last and greatest of all these was Orlando 
di Lasso. 



THERE was born in the fifteenth century a 
composer who was a connecting link between 
the Flemish school and the old Italian school 
of composition. Adrian Willaert was born 
in 1480 in Bruges, in Flanders, and, as was 
usual with the Flemish composers, he went 
to Rome as a young man. Here he was 
unpleasantly surprised by hearing one of his 
own motettes given as a composition of 
Josquin des Pres. On his proving the 
authorship, the papal singers laid aside the 
work altogether, and Des Pres left Rome in 
a very disgusted state. He finally settled 
in Venice, and became the organist of St. 

The Old Italian Composers. 25 

Mark's Cathedral there. At this cathedral, 
and largely because of Willaert, a school of 
organ music was born, the earliest school of 
advanced instrumental music. Willaert had 
many Italian pupils, and in his later years a 
number of German students came to Venice 
to study the mode of composition and of 
organ-playing taught there. Willaert was 
the first to demonstrate that the musical 
scale ought to be tuned in twelve equal 
semitones, a mode of tuning that was practi- 
cally introduced much later by Bach. He 
died in 1562, leaving behind him a host 
of talented pupils, among whom one can 
mention Cyprian de Rore, Zarlino, Scheldt, 
Praetorius, Scheidemann, Hassler, Andrea 
Gabrieli, and especially the famous Giovanni 
Gabrieli, one of the greatest lights of the 
early Italian school. All of these were 
either directly students with Willaert, or 
were taught by his pupils, and can, therefore, 
be called disciples of his school. 

26 Great Composers and Their Work. 

Meanwhile Rome was not idle. Venice 
had developed the art of organ-playing, and 
had taught even Germany in this field ; Rome 
applied herself rather to the vocal forms. 
Costanza Festa was, perhaps, the pioneer of 
this school. He was not a very great com- 
poser, but was fortunate in being the first 
Italian to achieve especial renown in com- 
position. He was one of the artificial singers 
of the Pope's choir, was born in Florence, 
and died in 1545. 

Now there comes upon the scene the first 
really great composer of contrapuntal music 
that the world had as yet produced. 

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina received 
his last name from the town of Palestrina, 
where he was born, probably in 1524, 
although there is still much controversy as 
to the date of his birth. The lad was of 
humble parentage, and as the Duke of Alva's 
soldiers destroyed the parish records of Pal- 
estrina, it is scarcely probable that the exact 

The Old Italian Composers. 27 

date of the birth of this first great composer 
of the world will ever be known. He became 
singing-master to the boys at the Vatican, on 
his arrival in Rome, and in 1544 wrote and 
published a set of masses, dedicated to Pope 
Julius III. This was a work which may 
justly be called epoch-making ; it was the 
first great musical work created by an Italian 
composer, it heralded the appearance of a 
rival to the Flemish school, which had been 
leading music into a bog of intricacies and 

Pope Julius, as a reward, appointed Pales- 
trina one of the papal singers, a violation of 
one of the canons of the church, since these 
singers were prohibited from marrying, and 
Palestrina had already entered the bonds of 
wedlock. There was no very great pay 
attached to the position, but even this 
stipend was suddenly stopped by the death 
of Pope Julius, and the subsequent demise of 
Marcellus, who was well-disposed towards 

28 Great Composers and Their Work. 

Palestrina, after being Pope for twenty-three 
days. The haughty and imperious church- 
man, John Peter Carrafa, now became Pope 
under the title of Paul IV., and began a 
series of stringent reforms in all clerical 
matters. Palestrina was at once dismissed, 
with an annuity of six scudi a month. It 
shows the great modesty of this composer 
that he thought that his career was ruined 
by the loss of his position ; he was broken- 
hearted for a time, believing that his depend- 
ent family must now starve, and took to his 
bed with a nervous fever that nearly cut 
short his career at the very beginning. 
The composer of the first great Italian 
masses was too great, however, to sink into 
obscurity because of any papal dismissal, and 
the same year (1555) finds him appointed 
director of music at the Lateran church. In 
1561 he became director of the music at 
S. Maria Maggiore, where he remained ten 

The Old Italian Composers. 29 

In 1562 Palestrina became the saviour of 
the music of the Catholic Church. The 
reforms of Paul IV. extended far beyond the 
purification of his own choir ; he began the 
task of reforming all the evils that had crept 
into clerical affairs. The reformation headed 
by Luther had gained enormous headway ; 
the reformers were thundering at the gates 
of the citadel of the Church itself ; Paul IV. 
began a counter-reformation, and the great 
Council of Trent was called together to for- 
mulate measures to abolish the vices that 
had grown like ivy upon the oak. 

The music of the Church came up for 
discussion at the twenty-second sitting of 
the Council, September n, 1562. Com- 
posers, especially of the Flemish school, had 
displayed their skill at the expense of all 
religious feeling ; in those days the tenor 
voice took the melody, while the other voices 
supported the central theme with most in- 
tricate counterpoint. To demonstrate their 

30 Great Composers and Their Work. 

skill the composers often took a secular mel- 
ody for the tenor part, sometimes without 
even changing the words. Therefore, one 
might sometimes hear the air and even the 
words of a drinking song in the tenor voice, 
while the others were singing "Kyrie Elei- 
son," or " Gloria in Excelsis." The self-dis- 
play of the musicians had gone so far that 
the cardinals were disposed to wipe the 
musical progress of three centuries out of 
existence and return to the simplicity of 
plain chanting. 

A strong battle ensued between the icono- 
clasts and those bishops who loved music. 
At the twenty-fourth sitting the Council 
seemed to sway towards total abolition of 
counterpoint, but the Emperor Ferdinand 
suggested that this was too radical a step. 
A committee of eight cardinals was then 
appointed with plenary powers. Fortu- 
nately, among these were two music lovers, 
Saint Carlo Borromeo and Vitellozzo Vitel- 

The Old Italian Composers. 31 

lozzi. Eight singers from the papal choir 
were added to their ranks, and the result 
was that the committee determined to 
put the matter to a practical test. Did 
music obscure the meaning of the sacred 
words ? 

In 1563 Palestrina was called upon to 
give a practical answer to this question by 
writing a specimen of contrapuntal work 
properly wedded to the words of the mass. 
Ever modest and self - distrustful, he sent 
three masses to the committee of the Coun- 
cil. One of these was the ever -famous 
"Mass of Pope Marcellus." This was per- 
formed at the palace of Cardinal Vitellozzi, 
and afterwards at the Pope's chapel, before 
Pius IV. The Pope was in ecstasy. "It 
must be such music that the angels sing in 
the new Jerusalem," he cried ; contrapuntal 
music was proved to be a help and not a 
hindrance to religious words. The mass 
was ordered to be inscribed in the choral 

32 Great Composers and Their Work. 

books in notes of twice the usual size, but 
pecuniary rewards did not follow. 1 

Palestrina soon wrote another set of 
masses, and dedicated them to the Spanish 
monarch, Philip II. ; the great king sent him 
as return his thanks ! 

The Pope now appointed Palestrina " Com- 
poser to the Pontifical Choir," with a raise 
of salary from six to nine dollars per month ; 
prosperity seemed ever to deny her smiles 
to this composer, while every honor and 
benefit was showered upon his only possi- 
ble rival, Di Lasso. 

Yet one may doubt whether actual pov- 
erty harassed the composer, as some writers 
would have us believe ; his wife was said to 
be well-to-do, and he had the constant friend- 
ship of great cardinals, such as Vitellozzi 
and Borromeo, while the founder of oratorio, 
St. Philip Neri, was his intimate companion. 

1 Although Ambros has doubted the story of the 
" Mass of Pope Marcellus," the evidence supporting 
the above story is overwhelming. 

The Old Italian Composers. 33 

Nor were moments of great triumph lack- 
ing; in 1575 the citizens of the town of 
Palestrina celebrated his jubilee, and en- 
tered Rome singing some of his compo- 
sitions, while banquets and speeches of 
congratulation and of eulogy were show- 
ered upon the happy musician. 

His chief sorrows were the deaths of his 
boys after he had trained them in music. 
The one son who outlived him was an un- 
filial wretch, who cared little for his father's 

In his later years Palestrina was appointed 
musical director to Cardinal Aldobrandini, 
and leader of the choir of St. Peter's. Jan- 
uary, 1594, saw the publication of his last 
work, a set of thirty " Spiritual Madrigals," 
in praise of the Holy Virgin. He died 
a month later. He wanted other of his 
works published "for the Glory of God," 
but his careless son did not carry out his 

34 Great Composers and Their Work. 

With Palestrina music was religion; he 
composed in a most devout spirit, and kept 
to the old church modes as if they were his 
creed. Mendelssohn held the " Improperia " 
(the reproaches of Christ to his persecutors) 
to be Palestrina's finest work, but the "Mass 
of Pope Marcellus " may be regarded as his 
most skilful. There is considerable differ- 
ence between the compositions of his first 
years and those of his later life. At first 
he copied the abstruse complexities of the 
Flemings, then he achieved a broader choral 
style, but in his riper years he combined 
great dignity with a florid treatment that was 
much less affected than the works of the 
Flemish school. 

There were plenty of eulogies heaped 
upon him after he was dead. " The Light 
and Glory of Music," " The Prince of Music," 
" The Father of Music," were a few of the 
epithets used on his tomb and by his fu- 
neral orators. A. D. 1 594 was an epoch year 

The Old Italian Composers. 35 

in music, for the Flemish school came to its 
end with the death of Di Lasso, the early 
Italian school reached its limit with the de- 
cease of Palestrina, and the first opera, 
" Dafne," was composed ; a new school of 
music had arisen upon the ruins of the old. 
Henceforth, in this little volume it will be 
impossible to speak of all the various striv- 
ings, reforms, and attainments which took 
place during the evolution of the great mod- 
ern style of composition, and we must limit 
ourselves to recording the chief deeds of the 
greatest lights in the musical firmament. 
But there were two chief religious lights in 
the entire galaxy, both writing from deep 
religious impulse, both virtuous, both poor, 
both not fully appreciated until they had 
been placed under the sod. One was a 
Catholic, the other a Protestant. The Cath- 
olic Church has canonized a musical cardinal, 
Saint Carlo Borromeo, and the founder of 
oratorio, Saint Philip Neri, but there is not 

36 Great Composers and Their Work. 

yet a full-fledged composer among the saints. 
Among the great composers, however, it 
may be difficult to find many good or holy 
enough for this honor ; but Bach (who can- 
not be sainted because of his faith) and 
Palestrina would fulfil nearly all the require- 
ments of proper sainthood. 




WITH the death of Palestrina and Di 
Lasso there came a great change in music ; 
the art, which had been growing more and 
more complex, suddenly was simplified, emo- 
tional expression triumphed over intellectu- 
ality, and the earliest days of operatic 
composition represent the reign of the ama- 
teur. Let no one underestimate the value 
of the amateur in art ! It may be doubted 
whether any of the skilled composers of the 
Flemish or of the old Italian school could 
ever have brought forth what was evolved 
by Count Vernio, Vincenzo Galileo, Peri, 
Caccini, and the rest of the body of music- 

38 Great Composers and Their Work. 

lovers, who, under the title of the " Came- 
rati," endeavored to bring back a form of art 
akin to the old Greek tragedies, and suc- 
ceeded in bringing forth something better, 
calling their new musico-dramatic invention 
" Opera." 

The world was waiting for just such an 
emotional expression in music, and the new 
school spread like wild-fire to Germany and 
England. It was not long before skilful 
composers gave their adhesion to the new 
style of musical construction, and such men 
as Monteverde, Cavalli, Alessandro Scarlatti, 
Pergolesi, and others, added learning to the 
enthusiasm of the early stages of opera. In 
France, under the " grande monarque," Louis 
XIV., and with the assistance of the great 
Moliere, Lulli was founding a separate school 
of light opera ; in England, Henry Purcell, 
the greatest composer that Great Britain 
ever possessed, was building a school of 
opera on the Italian models ; in Germany 

Opera and Oratorio. 39 

Reinhardt Keiser was establishing at Ham- 
burg a short-lived German opera. 

Such sudden changes in art generally go 
too far, and it was not unnatural to find the 
new composers forgetting the claims of 
poetry in their enthusiasm for music ; the 
result was that the librettos of the operas 
began to be very puerile, and the music by 
no means always represented the meaning of 
the words. The new school needed a re- 
former ; after Italian opera had ruled the 
world for more than a century and a half 
the reformer came. 


Christoph Willibald Gluck was born July 
2, 1714, at Weidenwang, in Bohemia. As a 
boy he studied at the Jesuit college in Kom- 
matau, and finally at Prague, where he also 
taught violin, violoncello, and singing. Now 
our rolling-stone passes to Milan, where he 
had the benefit of Sammartini's instruction, 

40 Great Composers and Their Work. 

and then goes to London, where he writes 
his first opera. This opera could not have 
been a very brilliant one, for Handel, then in 
England, said of its composer, "He knows 
no more of counterpoint than my cook ! " 
Hamburg, Dresden, and Vienna next saw the 
young musician, the last-named city, where 
he had dwelt before, witnessing the evolution 
of his first theories of operatic reform. 
These reforms can be summed up in two 
chief demands : first, that music in opera 
should always represent the ideas expressed 
by the poet ; and, second, that the orchestral 
accompaniment should be more than merely 
a support to the voices, and should add its 
colors to the picture which poet and musi- 
cian were portraying. Naturally this in- 
volved a higher species of libretto than had 
been in vogue before, and operatic poetry 
became much more powerful because of the 
reforms of Gluck. 

Almost every operatic reform rests in some 

Opera and Oratorio. 41 

degree upon the dramatic ideas of the old 
Greeks as represented in their tragedies 
(which were sung or chanted), and Gluck 
used Greek subjects for almost all of his 
important operas. He was fortunate in find- 
ing a poet who could collaborate heartily 
with him, and Raniero di Calzabigi deserves 
a share of the credit which is awarded to the 
the composer. The opera of "Orpheus," 
which still holds the stage, was the first out- 
come of the reformer's theories. 

There were plenty of attacks on the new 
school, and this eighteenth-century Wagner 
was obliged to defend and explain by pamphlet 
after pamphlet, very much as the Bayreuth 
reformer did in our own time. Fortune, how- 
ever, seemed always to favor him, for when 
he subsequently went to Paris, the queen 
herself (Marie Antoinette) became his pupil, 
and, naturally, one of the loyal supporters 
of the new school. Jean Jacques Rousseau 
also became an early convert, and fought for 

42 Great Composers and Their Work. 

the operatic reform ; but there were still 
enemies enough to make the battle an inter- 
esting one. There were plenty who believed 
that if music were melodic and pleasing, it 
had fulfilled its entire function, and not only 
was there a war of squib, caricature, and 
pamphlet, but there were numerous duels 
fought between the adherents of the old 
school and the new. 

At last the combat took on a practical 
phase ; there was an Italian, Nicolo Piccini, 
in Paris, who was a perfect representative of 
the school of mellifluous (and dramatically 
meaningless) Italian tune-writing, and it was 
suggested that the two composers prove the 
merits of their respective systems by setting 
the same subject to music. " Iphigenia in 
Tauris " was the topic selected, and, in 1781, 
in Paris, this opera, as set by Gluck and by 
Piccini, was performed on alternate nights. 
The triumph of the dramatic school was im- 
mediate and overwhelming ; the very singers 

Opera and Oratorio. 43 

became ashamed of the merely melodic set- 
ting, and, finally, the prima donna appear- 
ing upon the stage, evidently under the 
influence of copious libations, a Parisian wit 
cried out, " This is not ' Iphigenia in 
Tauris,' it is Iphigenia in Champagne ! " and 
the shaft of sarcasm gave the finishing blow 
to the school of mere melody in opera. 

Gluck died in 1787, and his works suf- 
fered a temporary eclipse because of the 
baleful genius of Rossini, who soon followed 
him. The Germans readily gave their ad- 
hesion to the principles established by Gluck; 
but the brilliancy of the vocal writing of 
Rossini set back the hands of the clock of 
operatic progress by about half a century. 
The world was obliged to wait for another 
reformer in the same field who should reap 
the harvest which Gluck had first sown, but 
the seed had been planted and could not be 
choked by any subsequent weeds. Gluck 
had made no concessions to popular taste, he 

44 Great Composers and Their Work. 

had followed an ideal, and had brought forth 
the first true dramatic operas ; in his works 
poetry and music had for the first time been 
fittingly wedded ; the future opera now had 
a firm foundation whereon to build its loftier 

The end of the sixteenth century and the 
beginning of the seventeenth was a period of 
renascence in music ; not only the opera 
sprang into being, but its sacred counterpart, 
the oratorio, was evolved during this impor- 
tant epoch. Saint Philip Neri, who has 
already been mentioned in connection with 
Palestrina, was the zealous founder of the 
religious opera, for such the oratorio was in 
its earliest stages, having costumes, acting, 
and stage effects as the opera has to-day. 
Neri began this style of performance as an 
elaboration of the old "miracle-plays," with 
which the Church used to amuse and in- 
struct its humbler adherents, and once a 
week, generally Friday evenings, there was 

Opera and Oratorio. 45 

given in his church of Santa Maria di Valli- 
cella, a sacred performance for the bene- 
fit of the public. As these plays took 
place in the oratory of the church, they 
were soon called " Oratorios." Saint Philip 
Neri died in 1595, after he had planted 
this good seed. The standard was immedi- 
ately taken by a very talented musician and 
composer, Emilio del Cavaliere, who brought 
forth a much more ambitious work in this 
school, called "The Representation of the 
Soul and the Body," which was given in 
Rome (in Neri's own church) in 1600, and 
has a good right to be classed with the 
earliest operas. The first opera, "Dafne," 
by Jacopo Peri and his companions, was 
performed in 1594, six years earlier than 
this oratorio ; but Cavaliere' s work was much 
more advanced than that of the operatic com- 
poser of this early epoch. Soon after Cava- 
liere's establishment of this sacred school, 
many great composers gave their efforts in 

46 Great Composers and Their Work. 

the same direction, but with Carissimi (1604- 
1680) a higher level was reached, the drama- 
tic action began to be omitted, and oratorio, 
as we understand it to-day, was established. 
Alessandro Scarlatti, who had elevated opera, 
now did the same for oratorio, and Stradella 
also wrote in the sacred school, while in 
Germany, Schuetz, Keiser, and many others 
began to popularize the oratorio. 


There were two men born in the same 
year (1685) in Germany, who were to lift 
the sacred school to its highest possible ex- 
pression. Bach and Handel are too often 
spoken of in musical history as if they were 
the Siamese twins of music. In many re- 
spects they were opposites. The points of 
resemblance are only these : Handel was 
born February 23d, Bach, March 2ist, both 
in 1685 ; both were German; both left great 
religious works to the musical world ; both 

Opera and Oratorio. 47 

were fine organists, and both were stricken 
blind in their later years. Here, however, 
resemblance ends, for Bach was not a dra- 
matic composer, while Handel was the most 
dramatic musician of his time ; Bach leaned 
towards the old intellectual school, while 
Handel was essentially modern in his effects. 
Bach was twice married, and had an enor- 
mous family, while Handel remained a bach- 
elor all his days ; Bach was poor, Handel 
became rich ; Bach was retiring and lived a 
sequestered life, while Handel loved public- 
ity ; and one might carry this list of contra- 
ries much further. It is also a mistake to 
consider these composers as peers, for Han- 
del's reputation rests chiefly upon his " Mes- 
siah," while one might obliterate the great 
" Passion Music," and Bach would still re- 
main the leading composer of the world in 
contrapuntal forms. 

John Sebastian Bach came of a family that 
had consisted of musicians for many genera- 

48 Great Composers and Their Work. 

tions. Veit Bach, who was born about the 
middle of the sixteenth century, seems to 
have been the founder of the long line of 
musicians which constitute the Bach family. 
He was chased from Germany to Hungary 
and back again on account of his Protestant 
faith, and this sturdy Protestantism became 
characteristic of all the musical Bachs of 
later times. Bach's father and uncle were 
excellent musicians, and were also cele- 
brated as being such a phenomenal pair of 
twins that their own wives could not easily 
tell them apart ! The great line of Bachs, 
the most honorable lineage in music, became 
extinct as late as 1846, when Wilhelm F. E. 
Bach died. 

Bach's parents died during his earliest 
years, and the orphan was obliged to live 
with his brother, John Christopher Bach, 
an organist in a small village near Weimar. 
This brother gave him instruction in music, 
but seems to have been a hard and stern 

Opera and Oratorio. 49 

man. The young Bach had a great desire 
to play certain musical manuscripts which 
his brother owned, but was forbidden their 
use ; by stealthy work at copying on moon- 
light nights (for he had no candle), he man- 
aged to transcribe the entire set, only to 
have them discovered and confiscated by his 
relative a short time after. This moonlight 
labor bore bad fruit later, for the blindness 
which came upon Bach in later life may be 
at least partially ascribed to this cause. 

The possession of a fine soprano voice 
lifted the lad somewhat above the bitterness 
of extreme poverty, and soon brought him a 
choir position in Liineberg, where he was 
enabled to pursue his musical studies with 
less harshness and to better advantage. 
When his voice changed he was able to 
obtain a position as violinist in the duke's 
orchestra in the city of Weimar. In 1704 
he won a post much more to his liking, for 
he was appointed organist at Arnstadt. 

50 Great Composers and Their Work. 

Bach always enjoyed playing the organ, 
and, by his improvisations and his composi- 
tions, he very soon became celebrated far 
beyond the limits of his town, and even was 
known outside of the duchy of Weimar. 
Many cities sought to obtain him as organist, 
and, in 1707, in his twenty-second year, we 
find him organist at Miilhausen. Here he 
married a distant relative, of the same family 
name, an estimable lady who bore him seven 
children. It is noticeable that the children 
of this first marriage became the most mu- 
sically gifted of all the numerous progeny of 
Bach, the great William Friedemann Bach 
and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach being among 
them. Bach's wife died very suddenly, dur- 
ing a short tour undertaken by the com- 
poser, who left her in good health and found 
her buried on his return. About eighteen 
months later, Bach married a second time, 
this spouse being a fine soprano singer. He 
had thirteen children by his second wife, 

Opera and Oratorio. 5 1 

thus having a family of twenty children, who 
ranged all the way from idiocy (David Bach) 
to genius (William Friedemann Bach). With 
such a family, and with the slender income 
of the musician in those days, it is not to be 
wondered at that Bach remained poor all his 
days, but it is none the less a disgrace to the 
city of Leipzig, that when the old musician 
died, after many years of service to the 
municipality, his wife was suffered to go to 
the poorhouse and to end her days there. 

In 1714 Bach was appointed director of 
the court concerts in Weimar, an important 
position, but with so small a salary that he 
very soon endeavored to find a more lucrative 
post. It seems strange that he was unsuc- 
cessful, in his applications to Hamburg and 
to Halle, for the post of city organist, and 
all through his life was doomed to see infe- 
rior musicians win the positions which would 
have lifted him above pecuniary care. This, 
however, never soured the temper of the 

5 2 Great Composers and Their Work. 

patriarchal composer, who seems only to 
have become angry when his beloved art 
was treated in a flippant manner. Among all 
the great composers only Palestrina can be 
compared to Bach in purity of life, freedom 
from envy, and unselfish devotion to art. 

Probably the pleasantest position that 
Bach ever obtained was that of kapell- 
meister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Kothen, 
which he held for six years before settling in 

As an improviser at clavichord (the prede- 
cessor of the piano) or at organ, Bach, prob- 
ably, had no equal. It was said that he 
could evolve a fugue as readily as others 
would bring forth a free improvisation. He 
proved this publicly, in 1717, before the 
king of Saxony, when, after a preliminary 
bout, Marchand, the great French virtuoso, 
ran away, rather than stand the ordeal of 
a regular competition with him. 

In 1723 he received the most important 

Opera and Oratorio. 5 3 

appointment of his life, for he was made 
cantor and musical director of the Thomas 
School, connected with the Thomas Church, 
in Leipzig. He held this position until his 
death, twenty-seven years later. The life of 
the composer now became an uneventful 
one. He lived like an ancient patriarch, 
surrounded by his numerous family, enjoy- 
ing a modest income, composing every day, 
teaching, directing, a model of a musician 
working in art for art's sake. A few hon- 
orary titles were awarded him by some ap- 
preciative noblemen ; he was held by many 
of his admirers to be the greatest musician 
of his day ; but his modest income and his 
sequestered position were unchanged by 
these empty compliments. 

In 1 747 there was a striking proof given 
of the estimation in which he was held by 
connoisseurs. Frederick the Great was an 
enthusiastic flute player, and had engaged 
the second son of Bach (Philipp Emanuel 

54 Great Composers and Their Work. 

Bach) as his accompanist. The monarch 
had heard of the great musical powers of 
Bach, and constantly pleaded with the son 
that his father might make a visit to the 
court. At last the old man, now over sixty, 
made the journey. The king was at supper 
when the news was brought of the arrival of 
the wagon with its occupant ; springing from 
the table the monarch broke up the meal 
with the words, " Gentlemen, old Bach is 
here ! " and took him, weary as he was with 
travel, through the palace. He played upon 
the king's pianos, but said that he preferred 
the clavichord, and considered the piano 
fitted only for light rondos or variations ; he 
improvised a four-voiced fugue upon a sub- 
ject given by Frederick himself, and, subse- 
quently, elaborated it into a six-voiced fugue, 
now existing in his "Art of Fugue." It is 
said that the king sent Bach a sum of 
money after this visit, which was embezzled 
before it reached the poor composer. 

Opera and Oratorio. 5 5 

The journey laid the foundation of Bach's 
last illness. He was old and feeble when he 
undertook the trip, and the excitement must 
have been very enervating to him. He laid 
another heavy task upon his eyesight by 
engraving (upon copper plates) his own 
"Art of Fugue," as the only means of 
giving it to the world. Blindness came 
upon him in spite of two operations upon 
his eyes. A six months' illness followed, 
when his sight suddenly returned, but he 
became frenzied with such joy at this that 
a fit of apoplexy followed, and the composer 
suddenly expired, at half past eight on the 
evening of July 28, 1750. 

The family was obliged by poverty to 
disperse after his death, and some of them 
suffered the direst straits in after years, for 
Germany did not fully recognize the great- 
ness of Bach until more than a half century 

Bach's greatness does not rest upon a 

56 Great Composers and Their Work. 

single masterwork ; he has many and diverse 
claims upon our recognition. He has given 
the world a most sublime work in his " Pas- 
sion Music " according to Saint Matthew ; 
he has left the most perfect organ composi- 
tions the world can ever hope to possess ; he 
has established, by means of the " Well- 
tempered Clavichord," the division of the 
scale into twelve equal semitones ; he may 
justly be called "The Father of Modula- 
tion," for he first practically established free 
modulation ; and he was the man who recon- 
ciled the old church modes, the music of the 
Flemish and the old Italian schools, with 
the modern modes of treatment ; he was 
the most masterly mind that ever appeared 
in music ; he was truly religious, and bore 
afflictions and lack of due appreciation with 
noble resignation ; and, in these modern 
days, when music is becoming a formless 
frenzy, when shape, melody, regular pro- 
gression are all thrown to the winds, we 

Opera and Oratorio 57 

have a sheet anchor which may help us to 
weather the storm, and that anchor is John 
Sebastian Bach. 


George Frederick Handel was Bach's great- 
est contemporary. He was born in Halle 
(as already stated) on February 23, 1685. 
An English history succinctly states that 
" Handel's father was sixty-three years old 
when he was born," which would go to 
prove that Handel's male parent was a most 
remarkable baby, but the reader can readily 
grasp the meaning of the awkward state- 
ment. The boy received a good musical 
training from Zachau, in Halle, which added 
solid learning to his natural skill in impro- 
visation. In his childhood a fortunate in- 
cident, which, at the same time, proves 
Handel's obstinate character, brought his 
musical abilities into proper notice ; his 
father was to make a journey to visit the 

58 Great Composers and Their Work. 

Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels, and had refused 
his seven-year-old son permission to accom- 
pany him, although the lad pleaded hard to 
go. After the carriage had proceeded some 
distance, it was found that the lad had run 
after the coach, and was clinging to the rear 
of the vehicle. It was then too late to re- 
turn, and, after a scolding, he was allowed to 
continue the journey. While at the palace 
of the duke, the boy, who had been secretly 
applying himself to spinet-playing, attracted 
the attention of the nobleman and his friends, 
who strenuously advised the father to allow 
him to continue his studies in music. It 
was after this event that Zachau was en- 
gaged as his teacher. 

When a youth Handel formed a close com- 
panionship with a young musician, four years 
his senior, named Mattheson. This acquaint- 
ance was of practical advantage to Handel, 
for Mattheson was of good family and already 
well-known in Hamburg, where, after the 

Opera and Oratorio. 59 

death of his father, Handel sought to provide 
subsistence for himself and his mother. In 
1703 the friends went together to Liibeck, 
to compete in generous rivalry for the post 
of city organist, which the eminent Buxte- 
hude was about to vacate. They were 
amazed, however, to learn that the old organ- 
ist made one primary condition, the suc- 
cessful contestant was to marry his daughter. 
After looking at the lady, they decided not 
to enter into the contest \ 

At this time the city of Hamburg was 
making a strange attempt to establish Ger- 
man opera : a brilliant, but decidedly care- 
less, composer named Reinhardt Keiser was 
furnishing operas, with fireworks, proces- 
sions, and with three or four languages 
mingled in the representation, and was 
making a temporary success only endan- 
gered by most spendthrifty habits. Know- 
ing the jealous character of the average 
composer, Handel offered his services in the 

60 Great Composers and Their Work. 

orchestra of the opera company, having, 
seemingly, just enough ability to play second 
violin, and nothing more. But one day 
when Keiser had suddenly run away from 
his creditors, and the orchestra was without 
a head, our second violinist suggested that 
he might be able to direct the scheme as 
well as play a subordinate part. For a time 
the new arrangement worked well, but a 
sudden quarrel with Mattheson at this period 
nearly ended the career of the genius al- 
together. His refusal to allow Mattheson to 
conduct part of his own opera so enraged 
that composer, that, at the end of the opera, 
he gave Handel a box on the ear. Instantly 
drawing their swords, they began a duel, 
which ended by Mattheson's weapon break- 
ing against a large button on Handel's coat, 
which, fortunately, prevented it from going 
through his body. The quarrel subsided 
almost as quickly as it had arisen. 

After a few years of activity as composer 

Opera and Oratorio. 61 

and director to the Hamburg opera, Handel, 
in 1706, left Germany for Italy, where he 
acquired that ability in Italian operatic com- 
position and that love of dramatic effect 
which was to help him, after many years, 
in the production of his masterpieces. 

On his return to Germany he entered the 
service of George, Elector of Hanover, but 
subsequently applied for a furlough in order 
that he might pay a short visit to England. 
Once in England, however, he found such an 
amount of appreciation that he decided not 
to return to his Hanoverian master. One 
can imagine his dismay when, on the death 
of Queen Anne, the Hanoverian succession 
was effected, and his master from across seas 
became King of England. Handel thought 
that his career was ruined, but an ingenious 
expedient of Baron Kilmanseck brought 
about a reconciliation. 

The king was to have a water party upon 
the Thames, and the composer was informed 

62 Great Composers and Their Work, 

of it. During the procession of the barges 
up the river, a barge drew near to the royal 
boat and discoursed most beautiful music. 
After a time, George I. asked the name of 
the composer of the music which so charmed 
him, whereupon they told him that it was 
written by his old servant, Handel, who had 
composed it especially for the occasion. 
Handel was admitted to the royal barge 
and again taken into favor. The so-called 
"Water-music," which gained his pardon, 
is still occasionally played in our concerts. 

There now ensued many years of operatic 
management in London, during which Han- 
del made and lost many fortunes and wrote 
many operas. These operas (because of the 
change of many operatic fashions) were not 
destined to be immortal, but they were pre- 
paratory to something much greater. 

After his fiftieth birthday, Handel sud- 
denly took a resolution to leave operatic 
composition, and to devote himself entirely 

Opera and Oratorio. 63 

to the sacred side of music, " as becomes 
a man descending the vale of years." Julius 
Caesar won all his great victories after his 
fiftieth year ; Handel won his immortal crown 
as a composer during the same late epoch. 
"The Messiah" crowned his career, and left 
him the most popular composer of his time, 
although he never reached the great heights 
of Bach. 

He was a most rapid worker. His master- 
piece was written in about three weeks, and 
some of his other oratorios were also pro- 
duced with astonishing rapidity. When his 
inventive genius did not produce melodies 
quickly enough for his purpose, he would 
boldly steal any beautiful tune that suited 
his purpose, without going through the 
slight formality of giving its composer credit 
for it. He has been called " the grand old 
robber," but it must be confessed that, when 
he stole a melody, he enriched it so with 
his contrapuntal genius that the crime car- 

64 Great Composers and Their Work. 

ried its own extenuation with it. " That pig 
don't know what to do with such a tune ! " 
he cried, when they reproached him with 
stealing the melody of another composer. 

Handel was imperious in the extreme, and 
irascible as well. He needed these qualities 
in managing the spoiled darlings of the public 
who sang in some of his operas. Cuzzoni, 
for example, was a most capricious prim a 
donna; after Handel had altered a certain 
aria for her a half dozen times, she suddenly 
declined to sing in the opera altogether. 
They were rehearsing in the third story of 
the opera-house ; suddenly seizing her, the 
composer dragged her to the window, and 
held her out ; " You will sing, or I shall 
drop you," he cried ; she sang thereafter 
with more ready obedience for Handel than 
for any other man in London. 

Handel was something of a glutton, and 
there is a caricature of his day which repre- 
sents him with the head of a hog, seated at 

Opera and Oratorio. 65 

the organ, while the instrument is garnished 
with hams, sausages, and other coarse foods. 

His conduct became much more exemplary 
in his later years, for he then grew more 
charitable and less irascible. When blind- 
ness came upon him he bore it with exem- 
plary fortitude, although the musical picture 
which he had composed, of Samson's blind- 
ness (" Total Eclipse "), caused him to weep. 
He died April 14, 1759, appreciated by Eng- 
land as no composer had ever been before. 

He was far bolder in his orchestral treat- 
ment than Bach had ever been ; in fact, many 
touches of tone-color which are credited to 
modern composers can be found by the 
student in the old operas of this pioneer of 
the orchestra, and his dramatic power must 
always make him the favorite contrapuntist 
of the general public. 



GERMANY at this epoch is repaying the 
debt it owes to Italy ; no longer do we find a 
long list of Italian geniuses in music, while 
Germany assumes the leadership, and to the 
names of Bach and Handel are added those 
of Haydn and Mozart, the former evolving 
instrumental music in its modern guise, the 
latter adding a totally new splendor to opera. 

Haydn is called " the father of instru- 
mental form," and to him we owe the classi- 
cal symphony, the sonata, the string quartette. 
He was born at the little Austrian village of 
Rohrau, March 31, 1732, in the humblest of 

Haydn and Mozart, 67 

circumstances, his parents being peasants, his 
birthplace a mere farmhouse of one story, 
with a rough barn attached. His musical 
abilities were discovered in his childhood, 
and a cousin named Frankh offered to train 
the young prodigy. The training was of the 
conventional sort of that epoch, and was plen- 
tifully interspersed with floggings when the 
lessons went wrong. 

Two years later, George Reuter, director 
of the great cathedral of Vienna, heard the lad 
and caused him to become a member of the 
choir of St. Stephen's, promising good musi- 
cal training to the young singer. Frankh had 
been a hard teacher but an earnest one, but 
Reuter was neither ; he simply neglected the 
lad altogether, and while Haydn all his life 
cherished gratitude for the former master, he 
states that he can remember only two regular 
lessons in music given him by Reuter, and 
this in spite of the fact that he was full 
of ambition and showed many indications of 

68 Great Composers and Their Work. 

musical zeal. He learned absolutely nothing 
at the cathedral school, although the daily 
hearing of fine music must have been good 
pabulum for the incipient composer. 

But the evil day came when his voice broke, 
and as he had also played a boyish prank on 
a fellow student by cutting off his pigtail, and 
as the Empress of Austria had said " that 
young Haydn sings like a crow," he was sud- 
denly expelled from the choir and the school, 
a sound flogging being added to the dismissal. 

Haydn now lived for a little while upon 
the charity of a friend named Spangler. He 
could have returned to his parents at Rohrau, 
but he feared that this would mean an abne- 
gation of his musical career, and he clung to 
his art with a species of frenzy. He was at 
this time almost entirely self-taught, Fux's 
"Gradus ad Parnassum," Mattheson's works, 
and the sonatas of Philipp Emanuel Bach 
being his daily study. He had a few pupils, 
and also obtained an occasional chance to 

Haydn and Mozart. 69 

play violin at dances, bravely struggling with 
a famine that seemed to become chronic. 

A Viennese tradesman, named Buchholtz, 
now insisted upon loaning him one hundred 
and fifty florins, without either interest or 
security, until better days should come. It 
was altogether a lucky transaction, for Haydn 
at once hired a garret of his own in a large 
house, and in this house there dwelt a poet 
who had many musical connections, the cele- 
brated Metastasio. This gentleman soon took 
a friendly interest in the poor yo'ing man 
who dwelt so far above him, and riot only got 
some fashionable pupils for him, but intro- 
duced him to the great singing teacher, Por- 
pora (probably the greatest vocal teacher the 
world has ever possessed), who occasionally 
allowed him to act as accompanist at his 
lessons and also to become his body-servant. 
Haydn has been called " Porpora's boot- 
black," and the title is no exaggeration, for 
he was glad to perform any menial services 

70 Great Composers and Their Work. 

for the master who occasionally helped him 
along the thorny road of composition, and 
who allowed him to sit by during many a 
music lesson given to richer pupils. 

Haydn was now about twenty, and had re- 
ceived buffetings ever since he had left the 
farm ; the results of this early career left 
their marks upon his character, and while he 
was always cheerful (for adversity did not 
sour him), he was also always servile and 
had not an iota of the independence which 
marked Beethoven's character. At this time 
he composed his first mass, a remarkable 
work for a self-taught genius. He also 
wrote an opera, and for a long time after- 
wards imagined that his special power lay in 
the direction of operatic composition, a 
decided mistake. 

The dark days were now ended ; he soon 
composed a set of sonatas which came to 
the notice of the aristocracy, and Countess 
Thun soon brought to him a circle of well- 

Haydn and Mozart. 7 1 

paying pupils, and finally induced Count 
Maximilian Morzin, a wealthy Bohemian, to 
engage him as director of his private orches- 
tra. Now at last our young composer had 
an opportunity to attempt orchestral com- 
position, and the result was that he com- 
posed a host of string quartettes and, in 
1759, his first symphony. 

In 1760 he married. It was a most un- 
happy match ; he had wooed the youngest 
daughter of a wig-maker named Keller, but 
the maiden was deeply religious, and finally 
became a nun. The father urged him to 
marry the elder daughter instead, and Haydn 
assented, although she was three years his 
senior. There followed many years of do- 
mestic infelicity, and finally a separation ; the 
wife was a virago of the most pronounced 
type, who could have given points to Xan- 
tippe herself. 

A year after the marriage we find Haydn 
appointed second kapellmeister to Prince 

72 Great Composers and Their Work. 

Paul Anton Esterhazy. The contract shows 
how much of a servant the musician was in 
the last century ; in it Haydn is commanded 
to be strictly temperate, to abstain from any 
coarseness in eating, in dress, or in man- 
ners, and he was at this time constantly 
addressed in the contemptuous third person 
as " Er." 

Nevertheless he was entirely satisfied, w > 
delighted with the quality of his sixteen 
musicians and with his vocalists, and when 
Prince Paul died and Prince Nicholas, the 
most munificent of the Esterhazys, suc- 
ceeded him, we find Haydn appointed kapell- 
meister, with a good salary, which he greatly 
increased by the sale of his compositions, 
which were now becoming known all over 
the world. 

He still remained in seclusion at Esterhazy, 
however, writing symphony after symphony, 
quartette after quartette, and receiving gold 
medals, diamond rings, and other tributes of 

Haydn and Mozart. 73 

homage from the sovereigns and nobility of 
Europe. His service might have gone on 
until his death had not Prince Nicholas died 
in 1790, leaving Haydn a good pension. 
Prince Anton, his successor, was unmusical, 
and dismissed the orchestra. 

Haydn, now fifty-eight years of age, was 
free to go wherever he pleased for the first 
time in his life. A London manager and 
conductor named Salomon immediately took 
advantage of this favorable turn of affairs to 
induce the great composer to visit England 
to give a series of concerts, and the first of 
January, 1791, finds Haydn in a foreign 
country for the first time. Here the highest 
honors were showered upon him ; his sym- 
phonies (six of his very best were composed 
for this first tour) received the best perform- 
ance and the highest commendation ; he was 
the guest of the Prince of Wales for three 
days ; he was given the honorary degree of 
doctor by Oxford University ; the Prince of 

74 Great Composers and Their Work. 

Wales played the violoncello part in one 
of his compositions, and the Viennese guest 
had all the aristocratic pupils that he could 
take at the highest prices. 

In 1792 he was again in Vienna, received 
with rejoicing by the entire city. A young 
composer by the name of Beethoven fol- 
lowed him to Vienna at this time to take 
lessons in counterpoint and general composi- 
tion. Haydn rather neglected these lessons, 
a fact not much to be wondered at when the 
fact is borne in mind that Beethoven paid 
only twenty cents a lesson, and that Haydn 
had just come from overwhelming honors 
and high prices in England. 

Haydn was much impressed while in Lon- 
don by the respect shown by the English for 
their national hymn, " God Save the King," 
and determined that he would write one for 
his own country. On his return, therefore, 
from the English tour, he wrote the present 
national hymn of Austria, " Gott erhalte 

Haydn and Mozart. 75 

Franz den Kaiser," possibly the only in- 
stance of a national anthem being written 
with premeditation ; the work, however, bears 
a strong relationship to the English national 

In 1794 Haydn was induced to make a 
second journey to England ; he had thought 
of bringing his pupil, Beethoven, with him, 
but that young man had irritated him so 
constantly that he called him "the Great 
Mogul," and left him behind in Vienna. 
During this stay in England even royalty 
itself was at Haydn's feet, and he was invited 
to spend the summer in Windsor Castle, but 
preferred to return to Vienna. Six more 
symphonies were composed during this sec- 
ond tour, making the two sets of " English 
Symphonies," the culmination of his orches- 
tral works. 

The pinnacle of his fame was reached 
with the oratorio "The Creation," and the 
great cantata "The Seasons." The latter 

76 Great Composers and Their Work. 

work killed its composer, for the frenzy of 
composition was too much for his now en- 
feebled frame. In his seventy-sixth year a 
great performance of "The Creation" was 
given in his honor in Vienna, and it is pos- 
sible that the excitement attendant upon this 
gave him his death-blow. In the oratorio, at 
the words " Let there be light, and there 
was light," there is a thrilling change from 
minor to major ; the day had been overcast 
and the skies were lowering and threatening ; 
just as the final words were reached the sun 
burst forth in full splendor and flooded the 
hall with light ; a strange thrill went through 
the audience, and all eyes were turned to- 
wards the old composer, who arose in great 
excitement and, pointing towards heaven, 
cried out, " It came from there ! " This 
expressed the devout belief in the divine 
origin of his gifts that had been character- 
istic of Haydn from the very beginning. 
The excitement, however, was too intense 

Haydn and Mozart. 77 

for him, and he soon lay on his death- 

During his final illness the French were 
bombarding Vienna. His servants were ter- 
rified, but, with amusing conceit, he assured 
them, " You are safe with Haydn ! " He 
caused them to carry him to the piano, where 
he played the "Austrian Hymn," his own, 
three times. During this same bombard- 
ment there was another composer in Vienna 
who sat in perturbation within a cellar, with 
cotton wool stuffed in his ears, fearing that 
the sound of the explosions would ruin his 
already weakened hearing ; this was Louis 
van Beethoven. 

It was a pleasant proof that Art belongs 
to no one country, to find the French officers 
visiting the sick Haydn after the city had 
been captured. Some of them were present 
at the funeral which very soon followed, for 
Hadyn died May 31, 1809. 

Haydn's most perfect musical expression, 

78 Great Composers and Their Work, 

judged by the taste of the present day, is found 
in his string quartettes ; his symphonies have 
been overshadowed by later productions in 
this form. His " Creation " is memorable 
as giving a series of graphic pictures with 
the help of the orchestra in a manner which 
went beyond the attempts of Gluck, but its 
third part seems very conventional nowadays. 
It has become the fashion to patronize " Papa 
Haydn," but he was a pioneer in many fields 
of music, and the composer of the present 
would be much the better for a little of the 
dainty grace and constant melody which was 
his chief characteristic. 


There are two lives among the biographies 
of great composers which are especially pa- 
thetic : Mozart and Schubert were both 
geniuses, both underrated while they were 
alive, both engaged with an incessant combat 
with the wolf at the door, and both died 

Haydn and Mozart. 79 

young because of this incessant conflict, and 
probably of the same disease. Both were 
also the most spontaneous of musical creators, 
but with Mozart this creative faculty was com- 
bined with a phenomenal amount of learning. 
Mozart was born in the city of Salzburg, 
January 27, 1756. His father, Leopold 
Mozart, was a good musician, a fine violinist, 
and a pious man. The child was a strange 
one, emotional, old-fashioned, and deemed un- 
likely to live. He had a peculiarly shaped 
aural passage, much smaller than ordinary 
children, and the sound of a trumpet would 
send him into spasms of terror. He was 
wonderfully susceptible to the general sounds 
of music, however, and would reach up to the 
keyboard of the spinet on which his sister 
Maria Anna took her music lessons, and en- 
deavor to imitate the pleasant sounds, before 
he was four years old. At five years he 
composed the composition which is herewith 

8o Great Composers and Their Work. 



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Haydn and Mozart. 





82 Great Composers and Their Work, 

The father, who was attached to the musi- 
cal establishment of the Archbishop of Salz- 
burg, soon obtained leave of absence and 
made a concert tour with his two prodigies. 
At Vienna the children met with a great 
reception, the young Mozart playing before 
the Empress Maria Theresa, and also becom- 
ing a playmate of the little princess who 
afterwards became Queen of France, the un- 
fortunate Marie Antoinette. The triumphal 
journey was extended to Paris and to London. 
A golden harvest was reaped in the tour, a 
strong contrast to the lack of pecuniary 
result which attended all of Mozart's later 

In 1770 the boy of fourteen was taken to 
Italy, where honors were still showered upon 
him. The Pope decorated him ; he met with 
the greatest singer of his time, the celebrated 
Farinelli ; and the great contrapuntist, Padre 
Martini, gave him some tests of musicianship 
which the lad easily met. At this time he 

Haydn and Mozart. 83 

gave proof of his musical memory by writing 
out the Allegri " Miserere " (which the papal 
singers desired to keep for themselves) after 
a single hearing at the Sistine Chapel. 

The entire Italian sojourn was of great 
value to Mozart, for it gave him a good com- 
prehension of opera and taught him how to 
express his musical ideas with that singability 
which is so often absent from the works of 
the German masters, who are sometimes un- 
vocal even in their greatest oratorios, cantatas, 
and operas. The Italian journey was, how- 
ever, soon interrupted by a summons from 
the Archbishop of Salzburg, who commanded 
a return. In 1772 we find Mozart, now a 
youth of sixteen, in the service of the arch- 
bishop, and remaining placidly in Salzburg for 
the next five years. Meanwhile he has given 
an opera, " La Finta Giardiniera," at Munich, 
with decided success, and his Italian career 
has been studded with other less important 
operas and sacred works. 

84 Great Composers and Their Work. 

In 1777 the father thought that another 
tour might be profitable, but his prospects 
were nipped in the bud by the archbishop, 
who roughly replied to his application for 
leave of absence, "I don't want such beg- 
gary from town to town ! " The young 
Mozart thereupon demanded his dismissal, 
which was angrily granted with the remark, 
" It will only be one musician the less ! " 
The tour was therefore made without the 
father, Mozart and his mother setting out to- 
gether. Munich and Augsburg were visited 
without much result, and then came Mann- 
heim, where there was a large orchestra 
under the patronage of the Elector Karl 
Theodore. Here Mozart remained for a 
time, making musical acquaintances right 
and left, and heartily enjoying "The Para- 
dise of Musicians," as Mannheim was often 

Among his musical acquaintances were 
the Webers, the father being connected 

Haydn and Mozart. 85 

with the Mannheim theatre, and all the 
five daughters being more or less talented. 
The second daughter, Aloysia, a beauty, and 
a good singer, won the heart of the com- 
poser, and he seemed intent on remaining 
in Mannheim indefinitely. The father of 
Mozart, hearing of the state of the case, 
sent a firm letter, commanding a continua- 
tion of the journey and a departure for 
Paris. Mozart had always the utmost re- 
spect for the wishes of his father, and there- 
fore tearfully parted from his sweetheart, 
who gave him two pairs of mittens which she 
had worked for him. The present was typ- 
ical, for she afterwards gave him the mitten 
altogether, being piqued that Mozart should 
place his father's wishes above her affection. 
In Paris Mozart was, naturally enough 
under the circumstances, very sour and 
gloomy. Yet the stay was of great benefit 
to him, for here he learned that dramatic 
expression in opera which Italy was at that 

86 Great Composers and Their Work. 

time not competent to teach. But the death 
of his mother and the French indifference 
to German composers led to a return to 
Salzburg. It was almost a presentiment 
when Mozart, after starting homeward, de- 
nounced his return as a piece of folly, and 
said that he had cast away his future by not 
remaining in France. 

Mozart always hated the Philistine city 
of Salzburg, and he was not more inclined 
to it after his enforced return from France. 
When, therefore, he was called at the end 
of 1780 to produce another opera in Munich, 
he was in no hurry to return to his prison. 
The archbishop (in whose service Mozart 
was once more bound) had, meanwhile, 
started to Vienna, and thither Mozart was 
summoned in a peremptory manner. The 
archbishop was in a bad humor, and he 
especially hated the rather independent 
young composer. The reception, therefore, 
was warm even to sultriness ; the arch- 

Haydn and Mozart. 87 

demon, or rather the archbishop, called 
Mozart such names that it is impossible to 
reprint them here ; he forced him to take 
his meals with the servants, and in every 
manner he seemed to delight in goading the 
composer-servant to frenzy. At last Mozart 
begged to be dismissed altogether, and the 
archbishop's steward was commissioned to 
kick the discharged composer violently 
down-stairs ! It is possible that the two 
lives given in this chapter may impress 
upon the reader the status of the general 
musician during the last century. Haydn 
and Mozart, during the early part of their 
careers, were treated somewhat more dis- 
dainfully than servants are in the present 

Although poverty was before him, at 
least Mozart had suffered his last con- 
tumely. Joseph II., Emperor of Austria, 
took up the composer and put him down 
again. Playing before the emperor brought 

88 Great Composers and Their Work. 

in fifty ducats ; then came a commission to 
set " The Escape from the Seraglio." After 
the performance (1782), the emperor only 
said, "Too many notes." "Just enough 
notes for the subject, your majesty," replied 
the undaunted composer. 

In 1782 Mozart married Constance Weber, 
sister of the Aloysia who had first won his 
heart and had now married an actor named 
Lange. It was an ill-considered match, 
although both parties loved each other ten- 
derly ; the wife was as helpless in household 
thrift as Mozart was unpractical, and so 
these babes in the woods went gaily into 
a married state that promised privation in 
all abundance, but not much of anything 

Constance Mozart long outlived her hus- 
band, and remarried some time after his 
death. Her own death occurred as late 
as 1842. 

Mozart has been accused, on rather insuffi- 

Haydn and Mozart. 89 

cient evidence, of being a very dissipated 
man, and the same charge has been made 
against Schubert. The same reply will suffice 
for both these charges : both these masters 
died very young, yet both left an enormous 
list of compositions ; therefore, their work 
was constant ; but both were " Wiener- 
kinder" ("children of Vienna"), and had 
the social character and the failings of their 
time and environment, they were neither 
better nor worse than the Viennese of their 

After the marriage the fight with poverty 
was constant in the Mozart household, yet 
there was no despondency. Joseph Deiner 
has left an account of his coming suddenly 
into their room and finding the pair waltz- 
ing around the apartment. "We were cold," 
said they, "and we have no wood." Yet 
there were moments of triumph, too, al- 
though these never by any chance turned 
into cash. " The Marriage of Figaro " made 

90 Great Composers and Their Work. 

a great success at Vienna, and in Prague 
caused a veritable furore. The composer 
was called to Prague, was the guest of a 
nobleman there, was honored by the entire 
city, and the orchestra rose and blew a 
" Tusch " (a fanfare of homage) whenever 
he came to the theatre. 

Mozart's was undoubtedly a Bohemian 
career, in which poverty itself was treated 
with insouciance. He thought once of going 
again to London. Had he gone there in his 
adult years he might have repeated the ex- 
perience of Haydn (he died in the same year 
that Haydn was being feted in London), and 
his loftiest works might have proceeded 
from English encouragement ; had he stayed 
in Paris he would also have eventually be- 
come well-to-do. This is one of the " ifs " of 
musical history. 

Mozart was an enthusiastic Freemason 
(yet at the same time a fairly devout Cath- 
olic), and this led to his composing some 

Haydn and Mozart. 91 

very important masonic music, and is also 
said to have inspired some of the mysterious 
touches in his opera of "The Magic Flute." 
He declined a liberal offer to enter the ser- 
vice of the King of Prussia from an absurd 
loyalty to the Emperor of Austria, who al- 
lowed him to starve. The prices that he 
received for some of his operas are incred- 
ibly small. " Don Giovanni," his greatest 
work, and one of the world's imperishable 
masterpieces, obtained for him the sum 
of one hundred ducats, which is less than 
a modern music copyist would transcribe 
the parts for. This great opera was first 
produced in Prague, October 29, 1787, and 
Mozart is said to have composed the overture 
the night before the performance. 

In 1788 Mozart wrote his last three sym- 
phonies (he wrote forty-nine in all, while 
Haydn composed about one hundred and 
fifty), and each of these works is a master- 
piece in its way, the one in E flat being the 

92 Great Composers and Their Work. 

first symphony with a clarinet part, the 
one in C being the great "Jupiter Sym- 
phony," the most ambitious symphony of 
the last century, and the one in G minor 
being a very violet among symphonies, the 
tenderest and daintiest instrumental compo- 
sition of the master. In 1791 came his 
last opera, "The Magic Flute," and then 
came the swan song, the " Requiem." 

There has been much imaginative litera- 
ture written about the strange circumstances 
attending the production of this work ; it is 
therefore well to state the details of the 
matter. In 1791 there came to the dwell- 
ing of Mozart a man clothed in black, who 
dismounted from a carriage that bore no 
marks of identification. The stranger 
sought the composer, and asked him if he 
could write a requiem mass to order. This 
appealed to Mozart's Catholic feelings, and 
he gladly accepted the commission. The 
price was fixed, and the mysterious stranger, 

Haydn and Mozart. 93 

refusing to give his name, at once paid half 
of it in gold, fixing the date when he would 
return and pay the, other half, and take the 
finished composition. He returned at the 
time he had set, but Mozart had been direct- 
ing some of his operas, and had failed to 
complete the work. Another date was set, 
and the stranger again departed, still pre- 
serving his incognito. Now Mozart began 
to brood over the matter ; he was in poor 
health, and he became firmly convinced that 
the stranger was a messenger from the 
other world to announce his death to him ; 
he felt that the " Requiem " was to be his own 
funeral song. He had been treated with 
such injustice and jealousy by all with whom 
he had dealings that he imagined that some 
one had poisoned him. His premonitions 
were verified in so far that the " Requiem " 
was sung around his death-bed in order that 
he might hear the effect of some of its 

94 Great Composers and Their Work, 

Here many of the biographies end their 
tale, leaving the impression of a well- 
developed ghost story. The remaining facts 
clear up the mystery. The stranger came 
after Mozart's death, and claimed the "Re- 
quiem," paying the balance due, and disap- 
pearing as mysteriously as before. It was 
long afterwards proven that the man was 
Leutgeb, steward of Count von Walsegg, an 
eminent scoundrel who desired to give out 
the composition as his own, which at once 
accounts for the secrecy which surrounded 
the entire proceedings. 

But there is enough of mystery still sur- 
rounding the " Requiem." Mozart was not 
able to entirely finish it before his death, 
and consequently he commanded his pupil, 
Siissmayer, to write out the incomplete 
portions ; it is, therefore, difficult to assert 
just what parts have been written by the 
master and which by the pupil. Fortunately, 
the musical thief, when giving forth the com- 

Haydn and Mozart. 95 

position as his own, did not destroy the origi- 
nal manuscript, and portions of it coming to 
light long after, proved that the " Requiem " 
belonged to Mozart ; but for years there was 
a controversy about the authorship of the 
great work, and those who claimed it for the 
real composer were met by the undoubtedly 
true statement that the composition was 
altogether more grave and severe than 
Mozart's style of work, but the sorrowful 
premonitions attending its creation fully 
account for this. 

It may be mentioned here that if fate 
came near to depriving Mozart of the honor 
of one of his own works, it has, on the other 
hand, given him credit for a composition 
which he probably did not write ; there is 
much controversy going on regarding the 
authorship of what is called " Mozart's 
Twelfth Mass," of which Mozart probably 
wrote very little. There are other composi- 
tions in the repertoire which have similar 

96 Great Composers and Their Work, 

doubtful origins. Thus, Schubert's "Adieu" 
is probably not Schubert's at all ; Weber's 
" Last Thought " was not his last nor his first ; 
in fact, it was not his thought at all, but a 
pretty waltz by Reissiger ; and Beethoven's 
" Farewell to the Piano " was written by him 
long before he wrote his greatest piano com- 
positions, the last five sonatas, and was simply 
an Album-leaf of no very great merit. 

Mozart died December 5, 1791, and it 
seemed as if fate had even then not ended its 
persecutions, for, on the day of his funeral, a 
great storm arose, and the few friends who 
made up the cortege turned back at the gate 
of the cemetery. The body was laid in one 
of the common tombs in which many other 
coffins were placed. When at last the 
world awoke to the fact that a great master 
had died, there was no one who could 
identify his resting-place. As the burial 
had taken place some years before, it is 
probable that the tomb had been emptied, 

Haydn and Mozart, 97 

and a new set of occupants interred. There- 
fore, the monument to Mozart, in the great 
central cemetery of Vienna, stands over an 
empty grave, and no one knows where the 
dust of this composer has its sepulture. 

In the present days, when turgidity and 
dissonance seem to be the aim of many 
modern composers, Mozart is sometimes 
looked upon as too na'fve and simple, but 
it is doubtful if a more fluent composer ever 
existed ; his great learning is never obtruded 
upon the auditor in any manner ; gentility 
and daintiness are in almost all of his works ; 
he had a fund of melody only equalled by 
Haydn, and in his operas, even in his most 
earnest moments, he never becomes in the 
slightest degree unvocal. Among the Ger- 
man composers there are only two who in 
their vocal works are always and entirely 
singable, and these are Schubert and Mozart. 

Mozart is scarcely to be regarded as a 
reformer in music ; he did not invent much 

98 Great Composers and Their Work, 

that was entirely new, but rather advanced 
and developed the forms and theories which 
had been established by his predecessors. 
He followed Haydn in symphony and sonata, 
but gave a finer treatment to these forms 
than Haydn had done; he was the successor 
of Gluck in opera, yet his "Don Giovanni" 
carried the theories of " Orpheus " to infi- 
nitely greater heights. He was, however, 
the founder of the instrumental concerto, and 
the first to apply the sonata-movement form 
regularly to the overture. He left seven 
hundred and sixty-nine compositions in all, 
ranging from the very largest to the simplest 
song-forms. In literature Milton has not 
abolished Wordsworth ; in music not the 
most lurid modern orchestral scores can 
abolish the glories of Wolfgang Amadeus 



IF musicians were asked the question, 
"Who is the greatest of all the musical 
masters ? " most of them would reply, 
"Beethoven." Yet this is a statement not 
entirely true; judged from the purely intel- 
lectual standpoint, Bach is, probably, the 
greatest musician that ever lived ; weighed 
by the standard of emotional expression 
Chopin might be accorded the leadership. 
It is always dangerous to attempt to rank 
composers one with another, but it is safe to 
say that in the perfect combination of the 
intellectual and the emotional sides of music 
no one has, as yet, equalled Beethoven, and 
it is just this equipoise of brain and heart 

ioo Great Composers and Their Work. 

that appeals most strongly to the modern 

Beethoven was born at Bonn, December 
1 6 (there is some doubt about this date), 
1770 ; Beethoven himself maintained that his 
birth-year was 1772, but this opinion has 
been disproved. He came of a musical 
family, but probably inherited his sturdy 
character and his broad musicianship from 
his grandfather, who attained to the rank of 
kapellmeister. His father was also a mu- 
sician, a tenor singer, member of the musical 
establishment of the Elector of Bonn, and, 
unfortunately, this parent was a worthless 
character, a confirmed sot. Beethoven there- 
fore inherited both musical gifts and physical 
infirmities, for the deafness which came upon 
him in later years was a legacy from the 
dissipated side of his family. Beethoven's 
mother was of low social station, the 
daughter of a cook (Haydn's mother was 
also a cook), but she seems to have been the 

Ludwig Van Beethoven. 101 

busy bee in the otherwise shiftless house- 

The remarkable childhood of Mozart had 
an unfortunate influence on the early years 
of Beethoven, for his worthless father had 
heard of the great success of the Mozart 
prodigies in Vienna, Paris, and London, and 
believed that he could line his own pockets 
if he made a musical prodigy of the young 
Louis. But Beethoven was not a prodigy, 
and if he had been, the father was not the 
person to foster the growth of early genius ; 
the musical instruction given by him and a 
wretched boon-companion named Pfeiffer was 
intermittent and irregular, yet severe. After 
a day spent at the tavern the worthy pair 
would remember their duties as instructors, 
and the boy of five or six years would be 
exercised at the piano until late into the 
night ; visitors at the Beethovens have left 
on record the fact of seeing the child at the 
piano, shedding tears over the keyboard, at 

IO2 Great Composers and Their Work. 

the mismanaged and irksome task. It is a 
wonder that the boy was not imbued with 
a distaste for music in these early years, but 
he progressed, although not at a " prodigy " 
pace, until the two "instructors" felt that 
he ought to have a regular teacher. 

Christian Gottlieb Neefe was really the 
first teacher who awakened the love of music 
in the bosom where it had been smouldering; 
he gave the lad a good deal of Bach as study, 
and seems to have awakened a genuine love 
for the masters in the rather sombre and 
melancholy boy. A very respectable two- 
voiced fugue which the young Beethoven 
wrote at this time still exists, and there were 
some sonatas composed by him which show 
that the classical forms were being worked 
at to good advantage. 

Such achievements drew the attention of 
the Elector of Bonn towards him, and 
Beethoven was soon sent to Vienna to com- 
plete his musical education. His general 

Ludwig Van Beethoven. 103 

education had been almost totally neglected, 
and this defect was never wholly remedied, 
Beethoven being more or less illiterate all 
his days. In Vienna he met Mozart and is 
said to have taken a few lessons of him. It 
is stated that Mozart, on hearing the youth 
of seventeen years improvise, cried out, 
" Pay attention to this youngster ; he will yet 
make a noise in the world ! " 

But the mother at home was dying, and 
the sad event drew Beethoven back to Bonn, 
where a miserable existence awaited him ; 
the helpful housewife dead, the family was 
left in the palsied hands of the drunken 
father, whom Beethoven more than once 
had to rescue from the hands of the police. 
The elector took cognizance of the wretched 
plight of the family, and ordered that part of 
the salary of the father should be paid to the 
son, that they might not be reduced to utter 
starvation, and from eighteen to twenty-two 
we find the young Beethoven practically the 

IO4 Great Composers and Their Work. 

head of his little family, checking the father 
as far as possible and educating the two 
brothers. In 1/92 the burden was some- 
what lightened by the death of the shiftless 
parent. In the report of this event to the 
elector the terse statement is made, "Bee- 
thoven is dead, it will be a great loss to 
the tax on liquors ! " 

But now there came another beneficial 
change in the young composer's life ; he 
began to make friends among the aristoc- 
racy, and, strange as it may appear, consider- 
ing Beethoven's uncouth manners and lack 
of education, these high-born friends were 
loyal to him through all his days, and his 
circle of noble acquaintances grew constantly 
wider. The first of these new friends were 
Count Waldstein (to whom the great sonata, 
Opus 53, is dedicated) and the Breunings, con- 
sisting of the widowed mother, her sons, and 
her daughter Eleonora. He taught the lat- 
ter music, and she instructed him in general 

Ludwig Van Beethoven, 105 

literature, so that the educational defects 
spoken of above were in some degree amel- 

He fell in love with Eicon ora, of course ; 
he was continually falling in love, but the 
reader must by no means imagine the slight- 
est tinge of immorality in this ; these ideal 
affections were often the inspiration of Bee- 
thoven's loftiest music, and the Seventh 
Symphony, the Eighth, the so-called " Moon- 
light Sonata," the beautiful song "Adelaide," 
and much other of his music, may be traced 
to the awakening of romantic emotions 
through female influence. The Countess 
Erdoedy, Babette de Keglevics, Baroness 
Ertmann, Bettina Brentano, and several 
others were in turn the objects of Beetho- 
ven's pure affection. 

There was, however, one deep and most 
earnest love in the composer's life, which is 
somewhat wrapped in mystery. After his 
death, three letters, full of the most devoted 

io6 Great Composers and Their Work. 

passion, in his own handwriting, were found 
in a secret drawer of his desk. Thayer, in 
his great biography of Beethoven, ruthlessly 
demolishes some of the romance which has 
attached to these, but it is supposed that 
Giuletta Guicciardi, who afterwards married 
Count Gallenberg, was the object of these 
impassioned epistles. 

As every lady to whom Beethoven paid 
his addresses accepted them either with 
complaisance or with deeper emotion, it has 
been stated that our deaf, brusque, and ugly 
composer imagined himself somewhat of a 
heart-breaker. He sometimes clothed him- 
self in the height of fashion, which made the 
contrast with his ordinary untidy appearance 
only the more marked. Franz Lachner and 
Doctor Hiller have described to the author 
the personal appearance of Beethoven (whom 
they had seen) as that of a stunted giant, 
possessing a picturesque ugliness that had a 
peculiar charm. 

Ludwig Van Beethoven. 

In 1792 Beethoven left Bonn for good. 
The elector still remained his friend and 
assisted him towards a thorough education 
in Vienna. Three years of student life in 
the great musical metropolis now followed, 
at the end of which""time Beethoven had a 
good reputation as a pianist and an impro- 
visatore. He took lessons from Haydn, but 
we can imagine that the elder composer, 
fresh from great triumphs in London, had 
no very great enthusiasm for the instruction 
of a rather stubborn young man at twenty 
cents per lesson. One day, on his way home 
from one of the lessons, Beethoven met a 
young musician named Schenck, and, show- 
ing him his exercises for the day, was as- 
tounded to find that Haydn had left some 
twenty errors uncorrected. Although he 
continued with Haydn, he at once began tak- 
ing lessons secretly of Schenck also. He 
was a sore trial to the rather formal Haydn, 
whom he often contradicted, and who called 

io8 Great Composers and Tlieir Work. 

him " The Great Mogul " because of his 
imperious ways. 

When, a short time after, Beethoven dedi- 
cated his set of three sonatas, Opus 2, to 
Haydn, the latter asked why he did not add 
" Pupil of Haydn "to his name on the title. 
"Because I never learned anything of 
you," was the rough reply. 

His lessons with the great contrapuntist 
Albrechtsberger were also marked with such 
bold deviations from the paths of implicit 
obedience to rule that the old teacher 
warned his other pupils to keep away from 
Beethoven, as he would be sure to lead them 
astray in their composition work. Spite of 
these rough ways and imperious manners, 
however, Beethoven added constantly to the 
circle of his titled admirers and friends. 
Prince Lichnowsky and his wife were among 
the first of these, and his Opus i, a set of 
trios, is dedicated to this nobleman. This 
work was published in 1795, which year may 

Ludwig Van Beethoven. 109 

be taken as the beginning of Beethoven's 
earnest career in composition, although his 
symphonic composition began almost five 
years later, the first symphony being written 
in 1799, and first performed in 1800. 

His works paid him well from the very 
beginning, all the aristocracy of Vienna be- 
ing glad to subscribe to each new composi- 
tion of the young composer; yet the true 
Beethoven, the iconoclast in instrumental 
music, the giant of thematic development, 
was not yet existent ; it was only in 1 804, 
when the "Heroic Symphony" was com- 
posed, that the world began to recognize 
that a musical Titan had arisen. From the 
very first Beethoven took the utmost care 
in the revision and perfection of his works, 
and this is the more remarkable, when we 
remember that he was an absolute master 
of improvisation. Truly, in the study of 
Beethoven's mode of composition, in his 
constant improvements upon his first in- 

no Great Composers and Their Work. 

spiration in each of his compositions, one 
realizes the truth of the saying that " Genius 
is only a capacity for taking pains." 

In 1 80 1, before he had revealed the true 
Beethoven to the world, before his actual 
career as composer had fairly begun, deaf- 
ness began to settle down upon him ; 
whether this was a calamity to the world 
may be doubted, for it made the proud, 
sensitive nature more introspective than 
ever, and it was through this self-commun- 
ing that his works attained that sombre 
and earnest vein that cannot be often found 
in his earliest numbers. Yet it is indicative 
of the nobility of Beethoven's nature that he 
never becomes lachrymose or morbid ; his 
darkest compositions (unless it be a funeral 
march) end with either hope or tranquillity. 

The coda of the first movement of the 
" Sonata Pathetique," for example, after 
the most tumultuous struggle, ends with 
resolution and vigor, the wonderful brood- 

Ludwig Van Beethoven. in 

ing and groping which characterizes the 
slow movement of the sonata, Opus 106 
(the longest sonata ever written for piano, 
a veritable symphony), ends with an attain- 
ment of peace. The bitterness in Beetho- 
ven's works is never without its antidote, and 
one might well apply Goethe's words to this 
musician : 

" Wer nie sein Brod mit Thranen ass, 
Wer nie die kummervolle Nachte 
Auf seinem Bette weinend sass, 

Der kenn't euch nicht, ihr Himm'lische Machte." 

" Who ne'er with tears hath ate his bread, 

Who never through the night's still hours 
Sat hopeless, weeping on his bed, 

He knows ye not, ye heav'nly powers ! " 

But Beethoven was essentially aggressive 
and combative also, and this quality shows 
itself gloriously in such works as the 
"Heroic" or the Fifth Symphonies, in 
the "Sonata Pathetique," or in the "Eg- 
mont " music. 

112 Great Composers and Their Work, 

His humor was of fierce or grotesque 
style, very different from the dainty play- 
fulness of a Mendelssohn ; he was the very 
Aristophanes of music at times, as one can 
readily see in the Sixth or Eighth Sym- 
phonies, or in most of his scherzos. 

This vein of brusquerie was a salient part 
of the composer's character, and not always 
a pleasant side, as the cook found out who 
brought him some rather stale eggs from 
market, and was pelted with them, one by 
one ; or the waiter in the Viennese restau- 
rant, who received a soup shower-bath upon 
serving him some tepid soup. 

Beethoven was arbitrary in the greatest 
degree ; although he sometimes played a jest 
upon others, he would not allow such a lib- 
erty to be taken with himself ; thus he once 
asked Himmel, after that pianist had been 
improvising for over fifteen minutes, " When 
are you going to begin ? " but when Himmel, 
some time after, returned the jest by inform- 

Ludwig Van Beethoven. 113 

ing him that a lantern had been invented for 
the blind, and Beethoven had swallowed the 
bait, he was furious on learning that he had 
been hoaxed. 

But down deep in the bizarre and tyran- 
nical nature there was a lofty ideal, a love of 
liberty, a belief in the universal brotherhood 
of mankind, and not only does the document 
sometimes called " Beethoven's will " show 
this, but it has become music in the over- 
ture to " Egmont," in the " Heroic Sym- 
phony," and in the Ninth Symphony. 

In 1 80 1 his deafness began to trouble 
him, and from this early epoch he was 
now thirty-one years of age there was con- 
stant doctoring of one sort or another. At 
this time he wrote : " I will try to defy 
fate ; I may be most miserable at times, 
but I will not allow destiny to drag me 

His quarrels were unending, so that even 
the Breunings, who loved him tenderly, were 

114 Great Composers and Their Work. 

at times sorely put to it to manage him ; he 
was constantly changing his abode, some- 
times forgetting to notify his landlord of 
his intention, so that lawsuits resulted. 

His one great opera, " Fidelio," finished 
in 1805, brought him many annoyances at 
first, for he never could be as willing a pur- 
veyor for the stage singers as Mozart had 
been. His pension, allowed by the Elector 
of Bonn, was stopped at about this time, and 
this caused him to redouble his efforts in 
composition. Three of his noble admirers, 
the Archduke Rudolph, Prince Lobkowitz, 
and Prince Kinsky, now banded together, 
and secured to the composer an annuity of 
four thousand florins, but this subsequently 
became much less through the depreciation 
of the Austrian currency. 

In 1812 we find the composer, suffering 
from swollen feet and from headaches, tak- 
ing the bath cure at Toplitz and other 
resorts ; during this period he met Amalia 

Ludwig Van Beethoven 115 

Seebald, a beautiful soprano, and fell in love 
with her. It is certain that the affection 
was returned, but no biographer has ever 
ascertained the reason that no marriage 
resulted ; it is pleasant to know that the 
Seventh and Eighth Symphonies were the 
outcome of this episode, and one searches 
in vain for a trace of the invalid in the 
joyous music of the latter work. 

These were the stirring times of the 
French wars, most wretched days for the 
development of the fine arts, yet Beethoven 
seems to have kept his head well above 
water; his compositions were sought for in 
every part of Germany, France, and England, 
and a concert of his compositions given 
before six thousand people in Vienna is 
something memorable for that era of small 
audiences. He was made honorary mem- 
ber of many European academies, Vienna 
bestowed upon him the freedom of the 
city, and the Empress of Russia sent him 

1 1 6 Great Composers and Their Work. 

a large sum of money (nearly five thousand 
dollars) as a present. 

Beethoven was certainly honored during 
his lifetime much beyond the homage which 
fate allowed to fall to the lot of other com- 
posers in his day. But there were troubles 
enough, too ; the deafness was growing worse, 
and now, to crown all, his brother Caspar 
died and left his son to Beethoven's charge ; 
the mother declining to accede to this ar- 
rangement, another lawsuit was added to 
Beethoven's collection of legal episodes. It 
was during this lawsuit that the court mis- 
took Beethoven for a nobleman, because of 
the "Von" in his name ("Von " in the Ger- 
man indicates noble descent, while " Van " in 
the Dutch, and Beethoven was of Dutch or 
Flemish descent, does not necessarily do so), 
and when the query was put to the com- 
poser, "Are you of noble family?" he pointed 
to his head and his heart and replied, "My 
nobility is here and here ! " 

Ludwig Van Beethoven. 117 

The nephew became a constant thorn in 
the flesh to Beethoven ; as he grew up he 
neglected all study and was of irregular 
habits and generally unreliable ; he entered 
the University as a student of philology, and 
failed in his examinations ; he attempted sui- 
cide and failed in that also ; he was arrested, 
finally, and ordered out of Vienna, and then 
entered the army ; but by this time, his gen- 
erous uncle being dead, he could trouble him 
no longer. 

The homage of the world still continued ; 
in 1818 the Broadwoods of London sent 
Beethoven a present of a grand piano ; in 
1822 the Emperor of Russia, the King of 
Prussia, and the King of France were among 
the subscribers to the edition of his great 
mass, at over one hundred dollars per copy, 
and an offer from the Philharmonic Society 
of London (accompanied by fifty pounds ster- 
ling) was received for a new symphony to be 
first played by them. 

1 1 8 Great Composers and Their Work. 

The quarrels also continued, and one by 
one Beethoven managed to alienate his 
friends, and Schindler, Maelzel (who fre- 
quently deserved it), Stephen Breuning, and 
others were made the recipients of the 
composer's unreasonable wrath ; but under- 
neath his furious temper and illiberal ways 
he cherished the constant ideal of univer- 
sal brotherhood and love ; while the Real 
was leading him into every kind of strife, 
the Ideal was crystallizing into the Ninth 

Beethoven's first idea was to have the 
great mass and the Ninth Symphony per- 
formed in Berlin, but an address came to 
him from the leading noblemen of Vienna 
begging him to allow these works to have 
their first hearing in the city of which he 
was a citizen. The composer was profoundly 
moved by the honor, and the 7th of May, 
1824, beheld the great performance. It had 
been preceded by the usual annoyances ; the 

Ludwig Van Beethoven. 119 

vocalists were earnest remonstrants, since 
the finale of the work, although most lofty 
in its musical ideas, is very unsingable. The 
emperor was absent from the performance, 
but all of the nobility of the capital were 
present and the house was crowded. Bee- 
thoven was at this time totally deaf; when 
the symphony was ended he did not hear 
the wild applause of the great audience, but 
stood gazing at the orchestra ; one of the 
soloists was obliged to take him by the 
shoulders and turn him around, that he 
might acknowledge the enthusiasm ; in that 
instant it came home to every auditor that 
the creator of the great tonal work had not 
heard a note of its performance, and by wav- 
ing of hats and handkerchiefs they caused 
him at least to see their appreciation. 

The repetition of the work a little later 
was a financial failure, and, as usual, the 
composer visited his unjust wrath upon 
his friends. 

1 20 Great Composers and Their Work. 

It was his last great symphony ; in 1 826 
he went to his brother Johann at Gneixen- 
dorff with his unworthy nephew ; this visit 
probably laid the foundation of his final ill- 
ness, for his stingy sister-in-law put him in 
a bleak room and refused him a fire, the 
brother presented a bill for board, the 
nephew was incorrigible ; therefore Beetho- 
ven suddenly set out for Vienna in an open 
conveyance. He had already exhibited a 
tendency towards dropsy, and his dosing him- 
self with strong drink did not improve this, 
while now it became complicated with an 
inflammation of the lungs. Nevertheless, 
the composer worked on faithfully, writing 
his last string quartettes. The finale of the 
B-flat quartette was originally a very difficult 
and labored fugue; all the critics attacked 
this fugue as being an artificial affair, and 
for once Beethoven agreed with them ; he 
caused the fugal finale to be published 
separately as Opus 133, and his last com- 

Ludwig Van Beethoven. 121 

plete composition was the present finale of 
this string quartette, Opus 1 30. A fragment 
of a string quintette which he was com- 
posing for Artaria, the publisher, was prob- 
ably the last actual notation penned by the 

He was now living, a very sick man, in 
the Schwarzspanier Haus in Vienna. He 
had offended his previous physicians so that 
they would have no more of him, wherefore 
he called in a rather unskilled doctor, Waw- 
ruch by name. Dropsy was now asserting 
itself rapidly ; he was tapped by Doctor 
Seibert, and jokingly alluded to the fact 
that they might draw water from his body 
but not from his pen. But matters were 
rapidly getting serious, on hearing which 
Doctor Malfatti, one of the physicians 
whom Beethoven had insulted during previ- 
ous attendance, consented to come into the 
case. Beethoven welcomed him warmly, and 
now heaped contumely upon Doctor Waw- 

122 Great Composers and Their Work. 

ruch, whom he called " an ass " whenever 
he appeared. 

He feared poverty in these last days, 
although he had several, bank shares and 
other available capital concealed in his 
room. He appealed to the London Phil- 
harmonic for funds, and this society promptly 
sent him a hundred pounds and promised 
more should it be required. 

It is interesting to notice that he grew to 
appreciate Schubert while on his death-bed ; 
he looked upon a picture of Haydn's birth- 
place and said : " Strange that so great a 
man should have been born in such a hovel," 
and he spent some time looking through 
a great edition of Handel's works that had 
been presented to him, saying, "Das ist 
das Wahre," "That is the true work." 

The triumvirate of great symphonic writers, 
Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, were Catho- 
lics, but with Beethoven this was not so de- 
vout a matter as with Haydn and (in some 

Ludwig Van Beethoven. 123 

degree) with Mozart, yet he received the 
final sacraments of the Church before the 
final ag6ny set in. The very elements 
seemed to make the occasion memorable ; 
as he was passing away a wild tempest of 
thunder and hail burst over the city ; sud- 
denly there was a blinding flash of light- 
ning and a deafening roar of thunder ; 
Beethoven, who had been lying comatose, 
heard the tumult and shook his fist as if 
giving a last defiance to fate, and with the 
reverberations of that mighty peal the soul 
of the composer went forth. He died 
February 26, 1827. 

The funeral was memorable ; all of Vienna 
seemed to be present to do honor to the 
dead Beethoven ; the crowds were so im- 
mense that the soldiers were obliged to 
force a passage for the procession ; Hum- 
mel, Kreutzer, Czerny, Lablache, and Schu- 
bert were in that cortege ; poems and 
addresses were read, a choir sang on the 

124 Great Composers and Their Work. 

march, and four trombones played " Equal! " 
by the composer who had gone to his 

We have already stated that the glory of 
Beethoven is in the fact that his music is 
deeply emotional, yet awakens the intellectual 
faculties by development of figures, by archi- 
tectural structure, by symmetrical relation- 
ship of parts. In his orchestral works he 
was absolutely a liberator, and the con- 
trabass, horns, kettledrums, trombones, and 
many other instruments seem first to fulfil 
their entire functions in his great works. He 
was distinctly an orchestral mind ; even his 
later string quartettes and his piano sonata, 
Opus 1 06, are orchestral compositions in 

His mode of composition was peculiar. 
Mozart often thought out his compositions 
while playing billiards, Gluck with a particu- 
lar ring upon his finger, Scarlatti with his 
cat on his shoulder, Wagner with his sur- 

Ludwig Van Beethoven. 125 

roundings upholstered to fit his subject, but 
Beethoven loved to think out his composi- 
tions in God's open air ; he took long walks 
into the country, carrying his memorandum 
book with him, and as the ideas came to him 
he would jot them down in a hideous and 
hasty scrawl. These memorandum books 
have been collected by Nottebohm and de- 
ciphered after herculean labor ; they show 
most convincingly how seldom Beethoven 
was satisfied with his first thoughts. If 
he was composing at his desk and some 
stray thought came to his mind, he would 
jot it down upon a scrap of paper and place 
it in a basket by his side for use at some 
future time. Sometimes he had several of 
these baskets full of musical jottings, of 
which of course he never used a hundredth 
part. He thought out a good portion of his 
Ninth Symphony in a tree in Schonbrunn, 
near Vienna. Lachner has informed the 
author that in Vienna the inhabitants all 

126 Great Composers and Their Work. 

knew and loved the composer, and were 
accustomed to see him stand upon the side- 
walk, or even in the street, writing, if some 
new thought had presented itself suddenly 
to his mind. He was naturally not so well 
known outside of Vienna, and, as his appear- 
ance was often very untidy, he was once 
arrested as a vagrant on one of his long 
walks. Sometimes he would meet a party 
of his noble acquaintances while pushing 
along in his shirt-sleeves, and in such a 
case he would march on without attempt- 
ing to make himself presentable. The poet 
Goethe, the perfection of a courtier, was 
horrified by his lack of respect for the aris- 
tocracy, while Beethoven was indignant at 
Goethe's humble attitude towards princes. 
" Mann muss sie imponieren," " One must 
be imposing with them," said Beethoven, 
referring to his manners with the nobility. 

A strange compound altogether : sturdy as 
his Flemish ancestors had been, a shy and 

Ludwig Van Beethoven. 127 

awkward nature intensified in its self-dis- 
trust by the greatest of all afflictions to 
a composer, deafness ; tender-hearted yet 
quarrelling with everybody ; most liberal in 
his ideals, most illiberal in his actions ; most 
sensitive yet most overbearing, one must 
seek the key to this riddle in the music 
which he has left as a legacy to the world ; 
here we have the real Beethoven, fighting a 
lifelong battle with destiny, never morbid, 
never yielding to despair, humorous at times, 
but in a rough and untamed way, loving lib- 
erty and believing ever in the brotherhood of 
all mankind, a model in art for all the coming 



AMONG the various forms employed in 
musical composition, opera and oratorio may 
be classed as the highest, the symphony as 
the most developed instrumental structure, 
and the fugue as the most perfect presen- 
tation of logic in tones ; but as in poetry one 
does not always demand epics, so in music 
one may desire a form which shall be less 
elaborate than the above, which shall yet be 
sufficiently dramatic, powerful, and complete 
to form a satisfactory art work. In vocal 
music this form has been found in the Lied, 
a style of composition of which Schubert may 
justly claim to be the father, although Schu- 
mann, Robert Franz, and to some extent 

Franz Peter Schubert. 129 

Brahms, have also glorified the repertoire in 
this direction. Yet, as all the great compos- 
ers, except Chopin, have won their laurels in 
various paths of composition, so Schubert's 
reputation, although resting chiefly upon the 
production of these vocal gems, was also 
gained in instrumental, choral, and other 
schools of work. 

Schubert was the most poetic, the most 
spontaneous creator among all the composers. 
In him we come as near as possible to the 
fount of inspiration, for he penned his works 
as rapidly as the thoughts came to him, and 
rarely made any alterations afterwards, being 
in this the opposite of Beethoven. 

He was born in Vienna, in the outlying 
district of Lichtenthal (the house is now No. 
54 Nussdorfer Street and bears a tablet), Jan- 
uary 31, 1797. He was the son of a poor 
schoolmaster who had eighteen other children. 
We have compared Schubert to Mozart, in a 
preceding chapter, in his poverty, in his fer- 

1 30 Great Composers and Their Work. 

tility of invention and in his short life, but 
Schubert was probably the poorest of all the 
composers who waged the combat with neg- 
lect and poverty. The evil fairies all seem 
to have showered their gifts into his cradle, 
for he was not only poor, but ugly in appear- 
ance and near-sighted as well. But one good 
fairy was there who gave to him a sweet 
voice and a love of music. 

After early instruction received from his 
father and brother, the pleasing voice of the 
boy led to his admission to the parish choir, 
where the director, Holzer, gave him some 
further instruction. This instruction was not 
very far-reaching, however, although it served 
to bring his genius into early recognition. 

" Whatever I try to teach him he seems to 
have known before," said Choirmaster Holzer, 
and soon after the lad was pushed as a 
chorister into the Imperial Chapel. 

This promotion caused him to become a 
member of the school attached to the chapel, 

Franz Peter Schubert. 131 

the so-called " Konvict-Schule." This brought 
him in contact with Salieri, the eminent com- 
poser, who seems, however, not to have given 
him any real instruction beyond a few words 
of advice occasionally. Ruzicka, teacher of 
thorough-bass, gave him a few lessons. At 
the Imperial school the lad underwent a 
thorough course in starvation, for there is 
a letter extant in which he begs a few 
kreutzers (pennies) from his brother to ease 
the pangs of hunger, which arose between 
the two meals which were vouchsafed to the 
growing lads of the Konvict. 

His musical enthusiasm at this time knew 
no bounds, but he was limited by a very 
peculiar fetter, he was unable to buy music 
paper. A comrade somewhat older than him- 
self, and in much better circumstances (who 
afterwards became Baron Von Spaun), for- 
tunately discovered this paper famine, and 
generously relieved it. 

In 1813 there came a change of voice, and 

132 Great Composers and Their Work. 

the sixteen-year-old lad was obliged to leave 
the school. At eighteen years we find him 
becoming an assistant school-teacher in order 
that he might escape the conscription which 
was peculiarly stringent at this time. He 
had already composed some ambitious works 
at this epoch ; at seventeen he had written 
his first mass, and his pious father was so 
delighted with this that he scraped together 
money enough to purchase his talented son a 
new piano. He had attempted an opera, but 
the score of this work is now only a fragment, 
because he left it as a pledge for a debt with 
a friend, Hiittenbrenner, and when, years 
afterwards, people began searching for the 
mislaid compositions of the master, they 
found that the servant had lit the fires with 
the whole first act and part of the second ! 
Many of Schubert's compositions were lost 
in such a manner, and the search for them is 
still going on in Vienna. Schumann, Sir 
George Grove, and, at the present time, a 

Franz Peter Schubert. 133 

rich Roumanian, named Dumba, have un- 
earthed some of these lost compositions, and 
there is reason to hope for more. 

At eighteen Schubert wrote the " Erl- 
king," producing it at a white heat, in a 
single day. The author of the words, the 
poet Goethe, never appreciated the glorious 
setting, and in fact, seems to have had a very 
defective taste in music, although gifted in so 
many other directions. 

At this time Schubert began making pleas- 
ant acquaintances among artists and musi- 
c.ans. Among the first of these was the poet 
Mayrhofer, who wrote many subjects for his 
musical setting. Schubert was a genial and 
chatty nature, while Mayrhofer had a vein of 
melancholy in his disposition that afterwards 
led to insanity and suicide ; the two seemed 
attracted to each other by the law of opposites. 

Soon after there came another friend who 
rescued him from the drudgery of his school- 
teaching. Franz Von Schober was a Swede, 

134 Great Composers and Their Work. 

fairly well-to-do, and had accidentally seen 
some of Schubert's songs before he came to 
Vienna ; he conceived a great admiration for 
their unknown author, and when he found 
him a young man of about his own age, he 
at once suggested that Schubert share his 
apartments, and try to find music pupils. 
This was done, and for many years the two 
were almost inseparable. 

Von Schober seems to have thoroughly 
understood Schubert's nature and gifts, and 
being a poet also, he gave him verses for 
musical setting that brought out the com- 
poser's best powers. There is one of these 
poems which so perfectly reflects Schubert's 
own life (it is set to music by him) that it 
may be reproduced here in a translated form. 


" Thou Holy Art ! How oft in sad, gray hours, 
When Life seemed dull and hopeless unto me, 

Hast thou upheld me with thy mighty powers, 
And oped a purer, better world to me. 

Franz Peter Schubert, 135 

" Oft has a tone from thy great harp immortal, 
Smoothed out the wrinkles from my troubled brow. 

Unlocked for me of Paradise the portal ; 
Thou blessed Art, I thank thee for it now ! " 

Von Schober was also able to introduce 
Schubert to certain artists who were likely 
to prove of great service to him in his work ; 
among these was the famous baritone singer, 
Johann Michael Vogl, just the cultivated 
musician to carry Schubert's standard out 
into the world. At first he held aloof from 
making the acquaintance of a young com- 
poser who might bore him with weak com- 
positions, but he very soon discovered that 
Schubert was not of this class, and after he 
had heard some of his lieder he craved more 
of them. 

The rapidity with which Schubert poured 
forth these songs was remarkable ; if a 
thought came to him at night he would 
spring from his bed and at once write it out. 
One night he thus spontaneously composed 

136 Great Composers and Their Work. 

" Die Forelle" (The Trout), and reached 
sleepily for the sand-bottle, then used instead 
of blotting-paper, to strew sand over the 
copy, but grasped the z>-bottle instead ; 
the result was that a tremendous blot was 
made over half of the completed manuscript ; 
he was, however, too drowsy to rewrite the 
work at the time, and the next day, as was 
his wont, he cared too little about a com- 
pleted song to take further pains with it. 
He sometimes forgot his own compositions ; 
once, for example, he sent Vogl one of his 
songs, which the baritone found too high for 
his voice ; Vogl, therefore, sent it to a copy- 
ist to have it transposed ; a short time after- 
ward Schubert saw the work, written in a 
strange hand, and ran it over. " Look 
here, Vogl," he cried ; " this is a very good 
song ! Who wrote it ? " 

There are many anecdotes regarding rapid- 
ity of composition connected with this or 
that composer, but many of them, when 

Franz Peter Schubert. 137 

sifted by the historian, prove to be untrue. 
The rapidity with which Handel composed 
"The Messiah" is a historical fact, and so 
is the story of the creation of " Hark, Hark, 
the Lark," by Schubert. It was a summer 
morning in 1826, that Schubert was return- 
ing from a long pleasure walk (Spaziergang) 
in the suburbs of Vienna, with a party of 
friends ; they had been out to Potzleindorf, 
and were walking through Wahring, when, 
as they passed the restaurant " Zum Bier- 
sack," Schubert looked in and saw his friend 
Tieze, sitting at one of the tables ; he at 
once suggested that the party enter and join 
him at breakfast, which was accordingly 
done. As they sat together at the table, 
Schubert took up a book which Tieze had 
brought with him ; it was Shakespeare's 
poems in a German translation ; he began 
turning from page to page in his usual insa- 
tiable search for subjects for musical setting ; 
suddenly he paused and read one of the 

138 Great Composers and Their Work. 

poems over a few times. "If I only had 
music-paper here," he cried, " I have just the 
melody to fit this poem." Without a word, 
Doppler, one of his friends, drew the musi- 
cal staff on the back of the bill of fare and 
handed it to the composer, and on this bill 
of fare, while waiting for breakfast, amid the 
clatter and confusion of a Viennese out-door 
restaurant, Schubert brought forth the beau- 
tiful Aubade, or Morning Song, "Hark, 
Hark, the Lark ! " 

In 1818 Schubert received the appoint- 
ment of music-teacher to the children of 
Prince Esterhazy ; it was not a very brilliant 
position ; there were two children, Marie, 
aged thirteen, and Caroline, aged eleven. The 
task took Schubert to the summer residence 
at Zelesz, in Hungary, during some months 
of the year, and the influence of these so- 
journs can readily be perceived in the Hun- 
garian tinge, the gypsy coloring, existing in 
much of his instrumental music and espe- 

Franz Peter Schubert, 139 

cially in the second movement of his great 
Symphony in C major. At the Esterhazy 
Castle he also met a most cultivated amateur, 
Baron Schoenstein, who sang his lieder with 
an intelligence that no opera singer of that 
time would have rivalled. Schubert was also 
able to give musical soirees in the castle, and 
even large works were occasionally produced 
here under his supervision. 

At the castle he seems to have associated 
with the servants by preference, for Schubert 
was never quite at his ease with the aristoc- 
racy. His happiest days were spent among 
the bourgeoisie of upper Austria. Yet it is 
stated, although by no means proven, that he, 
at a later epoch, cherished a hidden passion 
for the young countess, Caroline Esterhazy, 
which, however, was never spoken. 

At the end of the summer he was back in 
Vienna, and happy with the circle of com- 
panions which had gathered around him. 
This circle deserves a few words of descrip- 

140 Great Composers and Their Work. 

tion, for it may show , that Schubert's life 
was not an unhappy one, that he had some 
pleasures which mere money cannot buy, 
that he lived in an ideal Bohemia. 

In the first place, there was a whole co- 
terie of musicians which met on Sundays 
and played concerted music together. For 
this gathering Schubert wrote much of his 
instrumental music, among which the earlier 
symphonies were the most important works. 
At one time the little orchestra had no trum- 
pets or kettledrums, which accounts for the 
absence of these instruments in one of the 
master's symphonies. 

Then there came an addition to the more 
intimate circle, for the tenor, Frans Jager, 
became acquainted with the song-writer, and 
was bold enough (February 18, 1819) to 
sing one of his songs " The Shepherd's 
Plaint" in public, when it made an instan- 
taneous success, and caused his other com- 
positions to be sought for. 

Franz Peter Schubert. 141 

But above all, there was a circle of littera- 
teurs, painters, poets, musicians, all great 
men in embryo, who came together in the 
most jovial fashion. This was more than a 
mere " Kneipe " (a bacchanalian gathering), 
for many of the comrades lived together, 
and shared their poverty in the most light- 
hearted manner. There was Huttenbrenner, 
Jenger, Schwind, Mayrhofer (the one melan- 
choly member), Lachner, Spaun, and some 
others. It may be at once admitted that 
they were a shiftless and unpractical lot. 
What set of young artists would have been 
otherwise ? When they had money they 
drank champagne, when famine ruled they 
took to sugar water ! It was a Commune in 
the fullest sense of the term, and all their 
slender property was held in common. 
When one of the comrades had money, all 
were sure of sharing in temporary luxury ; 
thus, Schubert once sold a number of his 
songs to a publisher, and that night the 

142 Great Composers and Their Work. 

whole set went to hear Paganini, the great 
violinist, at a little over two dollars a ticket ; 
the next day the customary famine was re- 
sumed. If one of the coterie had an impor- 
tant visit to make he borrowed the best hat, 
boots, and coat that the community afforded. 
Schubert, during one of the impecunious pe- 
riods, was unable to find his wooden spectacle 
case ; after searching high and low for it, he 
came upon Moritz Schwind placidly using it 
as a pipe bowl ; there was tobacco, but no 
pipe, and no money for a pipe, wherefore a 
hole bored into the wooden case and the 
insertion of a tube made an acceptable 
substitute ! 

Schubert was the recognized leader in 
these Bohemian circles ; in his honor they 
called their social gatherings " Schubert- 
iades ; " whenever some one introduced a new 
member to the circle our composer's first 
question was " Kann er Wass ? " (" Does he 
know anything ? " i. e . in art.) So that 

Franz Peter Schubert. 143 

they came to call Schubert by the nickname 
of "Kannerwass." 

When they were together at the tavern, 
Schubert was full of playful pranks ; he 
would slyly break some of the dishes when 
the user of them was not watching, he would 
cause the waiter to guess the amount of his 
score, and when he was in the best of moods 
he would wrap a comb in paper and blow 
forth the " Erl-king " with the most exagger- 
ated pathos. 

Schubert was one of the most modest and 
one of the sweetest of natures. His was 
a soul absolutely without jealousy, entirely 
without envy. He was utterly unable to 
thrust himself forward. He reverenced 
Beethoven in the highest degree, yet, during 
all the many years that the pair dwelt together 
in Vienna (and they were often in the same 
restaurant together), he never plucked up 
courage enough to endeavor to make the ac- 
quaintance of his idol. A single interview 

144 Great Composers and Their Work. 

brought about by his publisher and a short 
visit to Beethoven during his last illness, 
were empty of all real result. 

Utterly incapable of managing business 
affairs, Schubert was the easy prey of all the 
music publishers that he ever came in con- 
tact with. He sold to Diabelli, for example, 
over seventy songs in one lot, among which 
was the " Wanderer," for eight hundred 
florins; the firm realized over twenty-seven 
thousand florins from the " Wanderer " alone. 

As a pianist, Schubert was an expressive 
player, but possessed no great amount of 
technical skill. He once attempted to play 
his own fantasie, Opus 15, to some friends ; 
after breaking down twice, he sprang from 
the piano in a fury, exclaiming, " Das Zeug 
mag der Teufel spielen ! " (" The devil 
himself couldn't play such stuff ! ") 

There is not much doubt that his most 
spontaneous vein of composition lay in the 
direction of his songs, for here his lack of 

Franz Peter Schubert. 145 

contrapuntal knowledge did not stand in his 
way so much as it would in the composition 
of symphonies or of sonatas, yet Dvorak boldly 
states that he believes Schubert to be great- 
est in his instrumental works. One may 
dissent from this opinion for the reason that 
development of figures is the keystone of 
symphony, sonata or string quartette, and 
just in such development was Schubert 
deficient ; his symphonies, sonatas, and 
chamber compositions charm by their mel- 
ody chiefly. They are disguised songs, poetic 
tunes placed in artistic contrast, but not per- 
fectly welded forms such as Beethoven and 
Brahms have given in their large instrumen- 
tal works. 

The dark days were coming upon Schu- 
bert speedily enough. He composed so rap- 
idly that the publishers felt that they were 
overstocked with his works and began to 
refuse them, and he was too little known to 
command any foreign markets for his wares. 

146 Great Composers and Their Work. 

The price dropped painfully. Some of the 
glorious songs in the " Winterreise," com- 
posed in 1826, were actually sold at twenty 
cents apiece! 

In 1827 came the death of Beethoven. 
Schubert had visited his idol on his death- 
bed, and also attended the funeral. On the 
return from the cemetery a few of the 
mourners stopped at an inn, and drank a 
glass of wine to the memory of the dead 
composer, when Schubert suddenly pro- 
posed a toast to the next great tone-master 
who should die ; it was a toast to himself, 
for he very soon followed Beethoven. 

It is a pity that Heine only began to 
grow famous as Schubert was nearing the 
end of his career, for the poet was just the 
inspiration needed by the composer of lieder. 
Even as it is, some of the best of Schubert's 
latest songs were inspired by the poems of 
Heine. "The City," "The Fisher maiden," 
or "Am Meer," may show what Heine 

Franz Peter Schubert. 147 

could have done for Schubert had their 
careers been more entirely contempora- 

In 1827, after the Beethoven funeral, 
Schubert went to Gratz on a pleasure tour 
with Jenger. It was his last great enjoy- 
ment, for here he came in contact with some 
of the sturdy farmers of that region, and 
seems to have entered heartily into the life 
of the middle classes, which he always pre- 
ferred to high society. It is interesting to 
notice that when Schubert was enjoying life 
heartily, he composed very little (with Schu- 
mann it was exactly the opposite), and his 
best works, composed in the latest years, 
were written amid gloomy surroundings. 
He himself complained that the public 
seemed to love those songs best which he 
had brought forth in greatest misery. It 
is too often true in music that " the anguish 
of the singer makes the beauty of the 

148 Great Composers and Their Work. 

Schubert's greatest instrumental work, 
the Symphony in C, was written in the last 
year of his life. In this colossal work he 
appears to be more careful than was his 

His friends had often reproached him with 
his lack of care in composition, and had cited 
the great painstaking of Beethoven to him as 
a model. " Go ahead," he would reply, "pitch 
into me ; " but it is evident that he had taken 
their advice to heart, for in this symphony 
he made extensive alterations, especially in 
the scherzo, after the score had been com- 
pleted. He had failed in the direction of 
opera, his beautiful " Unfinished Symphony " 
had received no call for its completion, and 
now this masterpiece also fell flat, being re- 
garded as too difficult to play, and not suffi- 
ciently interesting. The whole work came 
very near being lost to the world ; it was 
many years after that Schumann discovered 
the score, with its accumulated dust, an un- 

Franz Peter Schubert. 149 

known, forgotten composition, and sent it up 
to Leipzig to Mendelssohn, who caused it to 
be placed upon the Gewandhaus repertoire. 

Schubert now felt that he was handi- 
capped heavily by his lack of contrapuntal 
knowledge. "It is not too late yet," he said, 
cheerily, to some of his friends, and almost 
the last active work of his life was to ar- 
range for lessons in counterpoint with the 
celebrated Sechter ; the days for the lessons 
were set, the text-book chosen, and Schubert 
departed, to die. 

It was on the evening of October 31, 
1828, that he was sitting at his supper in 
the tavern where he often took his meals, 
when suddenly an intense loathing of food 
came upon him. From that time until his 
death he scarcely partook of any nourish- 
ment. On the nth of November he wrote 
a pathetic note to his friend Schober, de- 
scribing his loneliness and begging some 
books to read. He was delighted with 

150 Great Composers and Their Work. 

some of the Leatherstocking Tales by J. 

Fenimore Cooper, and hoped that Schober 

could obtain some more of Cooper's novels 

for him. He was growing weaker and 
weaker, and, like Mozart, seems to have 
been attacked by typhus fever, or some- 
thing akin to it. Schober did not immedi- 
ately reply, for he, in common with the 
whole circle of Schubert's friends, had 
never known the composer to be ill, and 
fancied it to be some slight and passing 
indisposition. It is a pathetic addition to 
the misery of this time that the sick com- 
poser was reading the proofs of the most 
mournful and sad set of songs that he ever 
wrote, " Die Winterreise," a sorrowful 
adjunct to his melancholy mood. 

He suffered no pain, but he was extremely 
depressed and weak. Only Randhartinger, 
of all the Bohemian circle, came to see him 
during these last days. His loving brother 
Ferdinand hurried to him, when he learned 

Franz Peter Schubert. 151 

of the dangerous state he was in, and stayed 
with him. Delirium now set in intermit- 
tently. A few days before the beginning 
of the illness, Schubert had heard Beetho- 
ven's C sharp minor Quartette, and it had 
made a deep impression upon him ; he now 
began to rave about this composition, and 
thought that Beethoven was in the room. 
Then he imagined that his quarters were 
changed, and was unhappy at the absence 
of Beethoven. Then came a lucid moment, 
and, turning to the doctor, Schubert said, 
solemnly, " Here, here is my end ! " and 
mournfully turned his face to the wall. At 
three o'clock on the afternoon of November 
19, 1828, Schubert's short life ended. 

He was thirty-one years old. He left 
goods valued at sixty-three florins, not 
enough to bury him, but his loyal brother 
Ferdinand, who had never wavered in the 
belief that his Franz was a genius, helped 
from his scanty store, that the burial might 

152 Great Composers and Their Work, 

be worthy. The sweet and guileless char- 
acter of Schubert also existed in the nature 
of the humble brother who believed in him. 

The epitaph by the poet Grillparzer is 
a very just one : 

" Fate has buried here 
A rich possession, but yet greater promise." 

Some dense quibblers have found fault 
with this, but it is absolutely exact. Schu- 
bert attained much "by the grace of God," 
but had he also carried out his final plans 
of study he might have become the greatest 
of all the composers. Some careless com- 
mentators have accused Schubert of being 
very dissipated; he -drank wine and beer 
with some avidity; he was neither a prig 
nor a debauchee. The statement already 
made in behalf of Mozart may also stand 
in defence of Schubert ; his long list of 
works gives the lie to those who would 
make him out to be a mere dissipated 

Franz Peter Schubert. 153 

wretch. He was fond of meeting his friends 
at Bogner's Coffee House, and the libations 
and jollity which he indulged in there were 
entirely in accordance with the customs of 
his time. One cannot refrain from likening 
his career with that of the most natural of 
poets, Robbie Burns ; both were the min- 
strels of the people, both sang in "native 
wood-notes wild," and if there were traces 
of weakness or fault in the two men one 
could say, with equal justice of both : 

" The light that led astray 
Was Light from Heaven." 



WE have seen that all the great tone- 
masters have won their successes in various 
departments of musical composition. We 
now come to an exception to this rule ; 
Frederic Chopin achieved all his successes 
in a single line of composition, pianoforte 
music. His attempts at orchestration are 
failures, his two concertos are very badly 
scored, and his songs, posthumous works, 
are beautiful piano compositions, with poetry 

Chopin might well be called the discoverer 
of the modern piano. It was but natural 
that such a discoverer should come; the 

The Modern Piano Composers. 155 

piano had undergone enormous changes since 
its invention by Cristofori in 1/09 ; Do- 
menico Scarlatti had brought in cross-hand 
effects, modern homophony and a bravura 
style applicable either to spinet or piano ; 
Philipp Em. Bach had established a sensible 
system of fingering in a book published in 
in 1752; Beethoven had turned the scales 
against the weak embellishments which the 
French clavecinists had fastened on spinet 
and piano music alike ; dementi, Czerny, and 
Moscheles had led technique forward to keep 
pace with an instrument that was constantly 
being improved, but Chopin suddenly re- 
vealed to the world the capabilities of one 
of its most versatile musical instruments. 

Chopin was French on the father's side, 
Polish on the mother's, and in character a 
combination of the two races, Parisian to the 
finger-tips in his elegance, Polish to the heart 
in love of country and intensity of emotion. 

He was born at Zelazowa Wola, near War- 

156 Great Composers and Their Work. 

saw, Poland, probably March I, 1809. As a 
child he had an aversion to the piano, but 
began studying music at an early age, never- 
theless. Zywny was his only teacher, and 
must have been an excellent one, for the boy 
was able to appear in public at nine years of 
age, on the very instrument which he had 
disliked a short time before. Joseph Eisner 
was his only teacher in composition. From 
the very first Poland was very proud of its 
young pianist, and Warsaw called him "a 
new Mozart." There was contact with the 
aristocracy from the very beginning; Cata- 
lani heard him at ten years, and gave him a 
watch ; the Czar listened to his playing a 
little later, and gave him a diamond ring. 
Meanwhile, his education was going on at 
the Warsaw Lyceum where the father taught 
French. The lad was a wild boy, full of 
mischief and juvenile pranks. He remained 
in Warsaw until young manhood. In 1825 
he published his Opus I, the Rondo in C 

The Modern Piano Composers. 157 

minor. In 1827 he left the Lyceum and 
took up music as his life-work. 

Opus 2, a set of variations on Mozart's 
duet in " Don Giovanni," " La Ci Darem 
la Mano," carried his fame beyond Poland, 
for there was a generous critic, Robert Schu- 
mann, in Leipzig, who discerned the promise 
contained in the rather crude work, and be- 
gan his review of it with the words, " Hats 
off, gentlemen ! A genius 1 " The work was 
published by Haslinger, in Vienna. In 1 829 
the composer went thither and gave a con- 
cert, and subsequently a second one, neither 
yielding any profit. 

At this early epoch he wrote his concerto. 
Some of his music was inspired by his affec- 
tions, a la Beethoven. He says that thoughts 
of the beautiful vocalist of Warsaw, Con- 
stantia. Gladkowska, inspired the Adagio of 
the F minor Concerto, and he ought to 
know. There were plenty more of such 
inspirations in his career, not always the 

158 Great Composers and Their Work. 

highest in music. But Chopin was the ab- 
solute slave of his emotions, and his music 
sometimes shows this ; there is a morbidezza, 
a lack of combativeness, very different from 
the spirit of Beethoven. Field unjustly called 
him " a talent for the sick-room ! " but 
he might rather be called the feminine (not 
the effeminate) in music. 

Chopin travelled slowly from Vienna 
towards Paris, making many aristocratic 
friends by the way. He said that he was 
going "to the United States via Paris," but 
once in the French metropolis he stayed 
there, and one shudders to think of what 
the delicate composer would have suffered if 
brought in contact with the musical barbar- 
ism of our country in 1831. At this time 
Warsaw was captured by the Russians, and 
Chopin's sorrow over the event may be con- 
templated in his Etude in C minor, Opus 10, 
No. 12, it being always borne in mind that 
his Etudes are not to be regarded as study- 

The Modern Piano Composers. 159 

exercises, but as the sketches of an artist are 
"studies " of a subject. 

In Paris he was immediately made very 
much of; although Kalkbrenner was then 
the fashionable teacher in the city, Chopin 
soon rivalled him in popularity. He gave 
many lessons, and at the highest prices, but 
as he lived " en prince" wore white kids at 
lessons, had his valet attend him, came and 
went in a carriage, he was always more or 
less pressed for money. To gain further 
prestige he took a few lessons of Kalkbren- 
ner; but at his concert, February 26, 1832, 
Mendelssohn said of the pianist, " Chopin is 
worth twenty Kalkbrenners ! " Liszt was 
among his friends at this time, and Chopin 
was publishing right along, winning a reputa- 
tion that very speedily became world-wide. 
His E minor Concerto, however, met with a 
cold reception in Paris, and after that he 
detested the concert-room, appearing publicly 
as little as possible. 

160 Great Composers and Their Work. 

In 1835 he went to Carlsbad, Dresden, 
and Leipzig, making many friends, among 
them Schumann and Clara Wieck. In 1837 
there came a trip to London. It was in this 
year that he met Madame Dudevant, " George 
Sand," and this friendship, or rather love, 
was to exert a great influence upon his career 
and his music. At the home of George Sand 
he constantly met with Liszt, Heine, and the 
greatest artists and litterateurs of France and 

It is unnecessary to give in detail the 
growth of the intimacy between Chopin and 
Madame Dudevant ; it finally ended in a 
quarrel and rupture after Chopin, now an 
invalid, had sojourned a while with the 
great novelist at Majorca. Those who 
care to read George Sand's version of the 
affair can consult her novel " Lucrezia Flori- 
ani," in which Chopin is pictured under the 
name of " Prince Karol." Weak and de- 
jected, yet in a frenzy, Chopin departed 

The Modern Piano Composers. 161 

for Paris ; on his return to his deserted 
rooms he tried to calm himself by impro- 
vising at the piano; he saw visions, and 
imagined that the nobility of Poland were 
filing by in long procession ; he viewed the 
cavalry marching out to war, and then grew 
afraid of his own mental state, and fled from 
the room. The result of this rhapsody was 
the great Polonaise in A flat, in which, 
Chopin has said, the recurring figure in the 
bass of the second part represents the tramp 
of the horses. 

In 1848 came the Revolution, and all con- 
tinental Europe seemed convulsed with the 
throes of liberty. Chopin's pocket-book grew 
rapidly empty, and, as there was but one 
great European nation free from the storm, 
he went thither, and we find him in Eng- 
land, very weak and sick, but giving concerts 
in London, Manchester, and even in Glas- 
gow. His illness grew apace, and he re- 
turned to Paris, only to die there, October 

1 62 Great Composers and Their Work. 

17, 1849. It is a Polish custom among 
noblemen to be buried in one's uniform ; 
perhaps it was this that caused Chopin to 
direct that he should be buried in his con- 
cert costume. 

Among the emotional composers Chopin 
may take first rank ; he cared little for 
learned elaboration of form or of figures, 
and many of his best works are in the 
simple song-forms, or in song-form with 
trio, the so-called "minuet form." He was 
by no means great in applying the sonata 
form which Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven 
had established, but the slow movements of 
his sonatas, where ingenious development 
would be out of place, are equal to any. 
He established the scherzo as an inde- 
pendent movement ; his concertos are beauti- 
ful piano poems, not true concertos. His 
polonaises are the most national of all 
his compositions, and he becomes much 
more masculine than is his wont in por- 

The Modern Piano Composers. 163 

traying the glories of his native land in 
these. So long as emotional music is prized 
by mankind, so long is Chopin sure of an 
important niche in the temple of Fame. 


Although we depart from the chrono- 
logical succession somewhat, it seems fitting 
at once to chronicle the results of Chopin's 
work. After his epoch piano music could 
not return to the primness of dementi or 
the phlegm of Moscheles ; a race of techni- 
cists sprang up, piano playing became more 
of a specialty, new points of technique were 
invented. The line began with its greatest 
exponent, Liszt, and Rubinstein, Taussig, 
Billow, and others speedily followed ; while 
in our own day D' Albert, Paderewski, and 
a host of others prove that the interest in 
this vein of work has not lessened. Of this 
list, however, only two seem to belong to 
the army of composers of fame, and the 

164 Great Composers and Their Work. 

title of the greatest of all pianists, Liszt, 
to a place among great composers may be 
much doubted. Yet he did much to further 
that school of piano treatment which Chopin 
had founded ; he showed by his musical 
works that the possibilities of the instru- 
ment had not been exhausted. 

Franz Liszt was born at Raiding in Hun- 
gary, October 22, 1811, his father being 
an officer hi the service of Prince Nicholas 
Esterhazy. As a child his abilities on the 
piano were marvellous, and it is said (but by 
no means proved) that Beethoven heard the 
lad play, and, although he detested prod- 
igies, gave him a kiss, saying, "He will 
make my music understood by posterity." 
At thirteen Liszt went to Paris, and fairly 
captured the French metropolis. From this 
time forth, until his death, Liszt was always 
more or less idolized. He was very hand- 
some, very talented, very generous, and 
there was a vein of religious mysticism in 

The Modern Piano Composers. 165 

his nature, which finally led him to become 
a dignitary in the Catholic Church. He 
claimed everything for the piano, and threw 
down the gauntlet to the doubters by play- 
ing Beethoven's symphonies in Leipzig, in a 
piano arrangement, not a very musicianly 

Adored by all of the nobility, more than 
one princess offered her wealth to the 
pianist, who was, therefore, placed far above 
all pecuniary cares. The charities of Liszt 
were boundless ; the statue of Beethoven in 
Bonn owes its erection chiefly to him, who, 
by his writings, concerts, and contributions, 
made it feasible. His concerts in aid of the 
sufferers by inundation, in Buda-Pesth, caused 
suffering to be greatly ameliorated in that 
city ; his efforts in behalf of Robert Franz 
caused that composer to enjoy a comfort- 
able old age, instead of being afflicted by 
poverty ; his aid to Wagner probably saved 
that composer and his later operas to the 

1 66 Great Composers and Their Work. 

world. A more generous musician never 

Just as Chopin was distinctly Polish in his 
music, Liszt was essentially Hungarian, and 
his rhapsodies and many other works 
brought the Magyar folk-music into the 
modern concert repertoire. Liszt was the 
most phenomenal pianist that ever existed, 
and was wise enough to retire from the con- 
cert-platform before his powers had begun to 
wane. Yet his ambition was to be considered 
as a composer rather than as a pianist ; this 
reputation, however, will probably be denied 
him. His oratorio of " Holy Elizabeth," and 
his masses, show earnestness but not immor- 
tal genius ; his two symphonies and his sym- 
phonic poems show great brilliancy of scoring, 
but fall short of being masterpieces ; but the 
piano works of Liszt will always have a high 
position as illustrating an epoch in the devel- 
opment of virtuosity upon the instrument, 
and far removed as this technical work is 

The Modern Piano Composers. 167 

from the poetic piano dreams of Chopin, it 
yet arose because Chopin had unlocked the 
possibilities of the instrument. 

Liszt also deserves commendation for his 
bold assertion of the dignity of musicianship. 
We have seen, in the lives of Mozart, Haydn, 
and Schubert, how low the caste of the musi- 
cian was held to be less than a century ago. 
Liszt aided greatly to break these fetters. 
The Princess Metternich, after one of his 
concert tours, ventured to ask him whether 
he had done good business. "I am in 
music, your highness, not in business," was 
the crushing reply, which first gave voice to 
the dignity of our art. Liszt died July 31, 

Anton Rubinstein was born of Jewish par- 
ents in Wechwotinetz, Moldavia, November 
1 6, 1829, and died November 28, 1894. He 
was also one of the pianists who built the 
structure of modern technique, but he was a 
composer of high rank as well. Had he 

1 68 Great Composers and Their Work. 

always risen to the height of the first move- 
ment of his "Ocean Symphony," he would 
have been classed among the great composers, 
and not far from Beethoven, but he was an 
unequal writer, sometimes rising to great 
heights, but sometimes using very evident 
"padding" in his works. His father was 
Polish, his mother German, therefore Rubin- 
stein was not distinctively Russian, yet Rus- 
sian influences moulded him, and he, too, 
shows, in some degree, the modern spirit of 
nationalism in music. His father and family 
were baptized to escape the shameful persecu- 
tions which Russia pours on the ancient race. 
His mother was his constant mentor (even 
tormentor) in music, and to his latest days 
he was somewhat afraid of her outspoken 

His chief teacher was Villoing, a rough 
but honest instructor, who refused all pay 
for his services in the matter. Rubinstein 
was refused admission to the Paris Conserva- 

The Modern Piano Composers. 169 

toire, as Liszt had been before him, probably 
because Cherubini, who was at the head of 
the institution, hated all prodigies. Liszt 
heard him at the piano, and exclaimed that 
he would be his true successor. Rubinstein 
was the first who brought the height of 
modern virtuosity to America, for he made 
a tour of our country in 1872. The national 
character of Rubinstein's music is not so 
marked as is the case with Liszt, not so 
thoroughly Russian as the operas of Glinka, 
or the orchestral works of the great Russian, 
Tschaikowsky. He himself used playfully 
to remark that he could not tell where he 
stood : " The Russians call me a German ; 
the Germans call me a Russian ; the Jews 
call me a Christian ; the Christians call me a 
Jew. What am I ? " 

It is not necessary to give the full career 
of this modern composer, who died greatly 
honored by the Czar and by all Russia. He 
became head of the St. Petersburg Conserva- 

170 Great Composers and Their Work. 

tory, and had much influence upon the prog- 
ress of that school of piano playing, which 
was the result of the revelations of Chopin. 

One other man greatly assisted this modern 
school of romantic and beautiful piano work, 
this was Robert Schumann ; but as he also 
became one of the world's great composers 
we must reserve an examination of his deeds 
for an especial chapter. 



THESE two masters were contemporaries 
and opposites, very much as Handel and Bach 
had been in the preceding century, and fate 
has played see-saw with their relative positions 
in the world's appreciation very much as it 
has done with the valuation of the two earlier 
and greater composers. At present, probably 
because of the attacks of Wagner, Men- 
delssohn is ranked too low ; during his life- 
time he was undoubtedly regarded with an 
exaggerated esteem, and held to be greatly 
the superior of Schumann. In these days, 
when every young composer rushes through 
the thorn-bush of dissonance, when diluted 
Wagners are found on every side, it is wise 

172 Great Composers and Their Work. 

to study a composer who loved form and 
elegance of expression, who maintained sym- 
metry even in his most dramatic and passion- 
ate moments. Such a man was 


The name is a compound, the " Bartholdi " 
coming from his mother's family. The family 
was a Jewish one on both sides, but conver- 
sions had crept in and the grandson of the 
great Hebrew philosopher, Moses Mendels- 
sohn, was bred amid Christian influences. 
Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg in 1 809, 
he died in Leipzig in 1847, another name in 
the long list of composers who died in the 
fatal fourth decade of their existence. 

The right of Mendelssohn to a place among 
the great geniuses of music may be ques- 
tioned ; he was, unfortunately, not tried in 
the fire of adversity as Schubert, Schumann, 
Beethoven, Bach, and others of the really 
great composers had been. His life was a 

Mendelssohn and Schumann. 173 

comfortable one from beginning to end. As 
well demand of a painter who has never seen 
the ocean to depict a storm at sea, as of a 
composer who has not suffered to portray 
the depths of emotion. There was generally 
a fatal suavity in Mendelssohn's works which 
prevented them from becoming entirely great. 
Mendelssohn's father, Abraham, was a 
well-to-do banker ; he was the son of the 
great Moses Mendelssohn and thus occupied 
the position of the prosaic mule between two 
valuable panniers ; he himself recognized this 
position and used to say : " Formerly I was 
regarded as the son of my father, now I am 
looked on as the father of my son ! " But he 
was a man of great practicality and sound 
common-sense, and there is no prettier picture 
in musical history than that of the family life 
of the Mendelssohns as revealed in Mendels- 
sohn's own letters. He and his elder sister 
Fanny were the closest of chums, and it is 
delightful to read of their piano practice 

174 Great Composers and Their Work. 

together while the gentle mother, who guided 
the work, sat by and wondered at what she 
called their " Bach fugue fingers." 

The musical education was most thorough, 
the strict Zelter being the teacher of counter- 
point and composition, and other eminent 
teachers being their guides in violin and 
advanced piano work, although all these 
branches were pursued with no intention of 
making music a career but rather as the 
adjuncts of a liberal education. French, 
English, Italian, Latin, Greek, dancing, math- 
ematics, and other branches of general culture 
were pursued as well, while tours to Paris, 
Switzerland, Italy, etc., rounded out an 
excellent education. 

When at last the boy begged that he might 
devote himself altogether to music, the father 
very sensibly did not vehemently oppose the 
plan, but practically began to sift the lad's 
abilities in this direction, and, once convinced 
that his son possessed great talent for com- 

Mendelssohn and ScJiumann. 175 

position, he withdrew all objection, and set 
himself about making the training as thorough 
as possible. 

There were indications of absolute genius 
in some of the early works ; if Mendelssohn 
could not present stormy gusts of passion he 
was at least a master of daintiness, and not 
one of the great composers has surpassed him 
in exquisite playfulness such as he constantly 
displays in his scherzo movements. This 
playfulness is the chief characteristic of his 
first great orchestral work, the overture to 
"Midsummer Night's Dream," which was 
composed when Mendelssohn was but seven- 
teen years old. The great octette for strings 
also belongs to this epoch. 

Mendelssohn was thoroughly grounded in 
Bach, and a choir was formed for the practice 
of the works of this master at his own house 
(his father had previously often hired an 
orchestra for his son's advancement in con- 
ducting), and this finally led to a great public 

176 Great Composers and Their Work. 

performance of Bach's St. Matthew " Passion 
Music," March u, 1829, under the youth's 
own direction. This may be counted as one 
of the great deeds in music, for Bach had 
become merely a shadowy name in Germany 
at this time, even the " Well-tempered Clavi- 
chord " being somewhat underrated, while the 
other works of the great master were allowed 
to rest in obsolescence. 

After this performance the great Bach 
revival took place throughout all Germany ; 
just as the world owes much to Colley Gibber 
for leading it to a Shakespearian revival, it 
has a debt to Mendelssohn for leading it to a 
clearer appreciation of Bach. After the great 
success of the " Passion Music " Mendelssohn 
for a single time alluded to his Hebraic 
origin : " It was a Jew who gave this great 
Christian work back to the people," said he. 

A tour to England followed, and here 
Mendelssohn experienced something akin to 
idolatry ; his London reception was wildly 

Mendelssohn and Schumann. 177 

enthusiastic. His trip extended northward 
to Scotland, and this had a direct influence 
upon his music. Almost all of the modern 
German composers have endeavored to write 
music in the Scottish manner, but only Men- 
delssohn has succeeded in acquiring the true 
Scottish lilt ; the scherzo of his " Scotch 
Symphony" may be regarded as the most 
Scottish work ever achieved by a German. 
The Scottish tour also resulted in the " Heb- 
rides Overture," in which the lonely Isle 
of Staffa and Fingal's Cave is depicted. 
The entire chief theme, fully scored, was 
sent as a letter from Scotland to his be- 
loved sister Fanny. "This is the way the 
island impresses me," wrote the young com- 
poser. The subsequent tour to Italy pro- 
duced the " Italian Symphony." 

Soon after we find the composer happily 
married and living in Leipzig, full of musical 
work. Among the most important labors of 
this time may be mentioned the conducting 

178 Great Composers and Their Work. 

of the Gewandhaus orchestra (Mendelssohn 
may justly be called the first really great 
conductor of orchestra), and the founding 
of the great conservatory. His works were 
now known throughout the entire world. 
Among them we may mention, as the most 
important, the two symphonies alluded to 
above (there were three others), the glo- 
rious " Hymn of Praise," the most lofty 
modern oratorio of the whole repertoire, 
"Saint Paul," and, finally, his most dra- 
matic work, " Elijah." His overtures are 
perfect in their way, and may stand as 
models of their kind. " Programme Music " 
is instrumental music which attempts to give 
a definite picture ; it is not the highest func- 
tion of music (except in vocal forms), to 
give such pictures. Mendelssohn followed 
the lead of Beethoven (who in his weakest 
symphony, the " Pastoral," attempted pro- 
gramme music), and made all of his over- 
tures in this school ; hence he was called 

Mendelssohn and Schumann. 1 79 

the great musical Paysageist. His over- 
tures are delicate landscapes or sea-pictures, 
the best examples of a school which cannot 
be called the best. 

"Elijah" was the chief cause of the death 
of Mendelssohn, as " The Seasons " killed 
Haydn, or the " Requiem " killed Mozart. It 
was written for the Birmingham festival of 
1 846, but he revised the work after its per- 
formance to within a very short time of 
his own death. The labor and excitement 
of composition was too much for his weak 
frame. The death of his sister Fanny (who 
had married the famous painter Hensel) 
nearly gave him his death-blow. A severe 
trouble in his head existed during the time 
of the Birmingham performances, and grew 
much worse thereafter. He returned to 
Leipzig to die. His death occurred No- 
vember 4, 1847, and all the world mourned 
his loss. 

Mendelssohn falls short of the grandeur 

180 Great Composers and Their Work. 

and dramatic force of the greatest com- 
posers ; but when the reaction from Wag- 
ner's attacks upon the Jew in music shall 
set in, the world will judge more fairly the 
sunny nature which speaks in Mendelssohn's 
compositions. One school of music does not 
abolish another, Wordsworth and Milton may 
coexist in literature, and the symmetrical 
Mendelssohn may be appreciated in spite 
of the intensity of a Wagner, or the rugged 
power of a Beethoven. And it would be 
difficult to find a composer who has ever 
united the formal and exact style of the 
old masters of music with modern melody 
so well as Felix Mendelssohn. 


It is too early to do full justice to the 
peculiar genius of Schumann ; his music is 
too subtle and subjective to be readily 
grasped by the many even to-day. Liszt 
has summed him up with, " Schumann is 

Mendelssohn and Schumann. 1 8 1 

the greatest music thinker since Beetho- 
ven ; " Wagner has said, " Schumann has 
a tendency towards greatness ; " the lauda- 
tion contains more truth than the sneer in 
this case. Composers have never been the 
best judges of other composers ; thus, for 
example, Mattheson belittled Handel, Handel 
sneered at Gluck, Weber laughed at Beetho- 
ven, Beethoven said that " Weber never got 
beyond the art of pleasing," Cherubini 
handed back Berlioz's compositions with 
the slang remark, " Nix Verstay," Mozart 
called Abt Vogler a charlatan, and a host 
of other false judgments might be cited. 

Schumann was a plant of slow growth, 
the pioneer of romanticism in music, a 
rebel against the formalism that, after 
the death of Beethoven, seemed settling 
down upon German music, the founder of 
a new school. The greatest barrier in Schu- 
mann's path was his contemporary described 
at the beginning of this chapter ; a fine melo- 

1 82 Great Composers and Their Work. 

dist, a thorough contrapuntist, a true formal- 
ist, Mendelssohn seemed the very Tennyson 
or Wordsworth of music, while here was its 
Walt Whitman. Whether Mendelssohn was 
personally opposed to Schumann's advance 
may be doubted, although ill-natured re- 
marks have been quoted which would go 
to show that the jealousy, which was almost 
the only flaw in Mendelssohn's character, 
was active against his competitor. Yet, 
even without any active opposition, the two 
composers were instinctively antagonistic in 
their methods and in their works. With 
Mendelssohn form came first ; with Schu- 
mann last, or not at all. 

Schumann was born at Zwickau, in Saxony, 
June 8, 1810. His father was a publisher in 
fairly good circumstances, a man of some 
literary attainment and poetic gifts, although 
what is called a self-made man. There was 
a vein of hypochondria in the family, and 
Schumann's sister died in her twentieth year 

Mendelssohn and Schumann. 183 

of an incurable melancholy. The boy exhib- 
ited a strong tendency towards literature in 
his early years, and wrote blood-and-thunder 
plays, which were produced by his playmates 
under his direction. His musical education 
was not neglected, but he received only that 
amount of piano instruction which is given 
to almost every child among the middle and 
upper classes in Germany, without any idea 
that the art of music was to form his life 
career. Yet the father seems to have sus- 
pected that there was more than ordinary 
musical talent in his son, for he wrote to the 
great Carl Maria von Weber asking that he 
might take his boy as a pupil ; Weber con- 
sented, but for some unknown reason (prob- 
ably the opposition of the mother) the plan 
came to naught. 

The death of the father when Schumann 
was sixteen was an irreparable loss. The 
mother and the guardian, a merchant named 
Rudel, decided upon the law as the profession 

184 Great Composers and Their Work. 

best suited to the youth, who acquiesced in 
this decision, and was thereupon entered as 
a student in the Leipzig University. 

" The best laid schemes of mice and men 
Gang aft agley." 

The Leipzig sojourn was to rivet the 
love of music upon him more than ever be- 
fore, for here he met Frederic Wieck and his 
prodigy-daughter Clara; the former was to 
lead him into the musical profession, the 
latter was to become his wife. 

Schumann was a strange and romantic 
compound at this time, and even thus early 
the terrible legacy of melancholia began to 
show itself. 

He began to have a decided distaste for 
the study of law. He had come strongly 
under the influence of the mystical philoso- 
pher, Jean Paul Richter, and had an enthu- 
siasm for the poetry of Heine (he had met 
the poet personally), which were excellent 
inspirations for musical composition, but 

Mendelssohn and Schumann. 185 

very poor stimulants for legal studies. He 
was working at the piano under the guidance 
of Wieck. 

At this time Schumann utterly refused to 
have anything to do with the study of musi- 
cal theory; he held that if a man had the 
true feeling for music he would not commit 
any great faults in composition. He lived 
to entirely recant this opinion, and to repent 
that he had not taken greater pains to con- 
quer harmony and counterpoint in his youth. 

Schumann was now well known in Leipzig 
circles as a young man with much skill in 
piano playing ; he was tending towards a vir- 
tuosity somewhat tempered and refined by 
his poetic nature. He wrote many composi- 
tions "by ear." The next year he spent in 
Heidelberg, and as his legal professor, 
Thibaut (the author of " Purity in Music "), 
was a man of fine musical perceptions, the 
student drew musical, rather than legal, 
pabulum from him. But in July, 1830, he 

1 86 Great Composers and TJieir Work. 

suddenly seemed to come to his senses, and 
to recognize that his existence was altogether 
too aimless ; the choice must be made, in 
fact he had already unconsciously made it. 
Law was hopeless to him, music was full of 
promise ; the result was an earnest letter to 
his mother, setting forth the whole state 
of the case. The answer was a model of 
motherly timidity. Was Schumann sure of 
himself ? Would he be happy in so unremu- 
nerative a career ? And finally Wieck himself 
should be the judge, and Madame Schu- 
mann wrote to him impressing upon him his 
great responsibility in making the decision. 
Wieck prophesied Schumann's success in a 
musical career, and the important step was 
definitely taken, much to the vexation of the 
worthy guardian, Rudel, who allowed an 
angry silence to stand for consent. 

Schumann had not yet changed his views 
regarding the uselessness of theoretical study, 
and therefore his whole attention was now 

Mendelssohn and Schumann. 187 

turned to piano study. As he found his 
fourth finger rather slow in development he 
hit upon a plan to hasten its progress. By 
a series of weights, ropes, and pulleys he 
rigged up a mechanism that placed a special 
muscular strain upon this unfortunate finger. 
He soon learned the value of the proverb, 
" Festina Lente," for his device succeeded in 
permanently laming his finger, and the lame- 
ness soon extended to his entire hand. The 
piano-playing career was at an end. As he 
had definitely committed himself to the mu- 
sical profession he would not now turn back 
to the law ; the once despised theory studies 
were taken up with ardor under the guidance 
of Heinrich Dorn. There are still in exist- 
ence harmony studies by the young man of 
twenty-two, which contain false progressions 
and cross relations that prove that he was 
obliged to commence at almost the first 
stages of harmony ; but the progress was 
very rapid and the final result sure. At this 

1 88 Great Composers and Their Work. 

time the death of his sister (a hypochondriac) 
plunged Schumann into a melancholy that 
threatened his reason. Possibly the very 
best escape from this grief was to work 
steadily, and we find the young man at 
twenty-four founding a musical journal that 
was to have an influence throughout Europe. 
Germany had become hidebound in the 
classical forms after the death of Beethoven ; 
the great tone-masters seemed to have be- 
come barriers in the path of art, because of 
the unreasoning fetish worship of a large 
tribe of pedants. Schumann gathered 
around him a circle of young radicals, and 
they began to protest against this state of 
affairs. In these attacks upon the old fogies 
Schumann was aided rather than hindered by 
his late study. A Mozart would have looked 
upon musical laws as immutable as those of 
the Medes and Persians; not so the young 
man who had studied them only after attain- 
ing his majority. " Die Neue Zeitschrift fur 

Mendelssohn and Schumann. 1 89 

Musik," was the literary outcome of the 
meetings of the set of young reformers, and 
it began its crusade April 3, 1834. 

Every young composer, being the most 
emotional of human beings, must needs fall 
in love early. In 1836 we find Schumann 
devoted to Ernestine von Fricken, and spell- 
ing out the name of the city she came from 
(Asch, A, Es, C, H, in our notation A, 
E flat, C, B) in a set of musical pictures 
called the " Carnival Scenes," a very pretty 
love-letter. But this was like the passion 
of Romeo for Rosaline before the Juliet con- 
flagration had set in ; the life-passion followed 
soon after, and with incomparably greater 

If there is any practice in musical litera- 
ture to be reprehended, it is the custom of 
the dealers in bathos to add false coloring 
to the romantic episodes in the lives of the 
composers ; in the case of Schumann it is 
like gilding refined gold or painting the lily, 

190 Great Composers and Their Work. 

"a wasteful and ridiculous excess." The 
tale that Schumann wrote his "Warum" to 
his beloved during their enforced separation, 
and that it won him his bride, is utterly and 
atrociously false. The true love-tale, as 
earnest and noble as any from Heloise and 
Abelard to Paul and Virginia, is as follows : 
Schumann had come back to the Wiecks, and 
found the talented child Clara, no longer a 
prodigy, but an earnest artist and a lovely 
woman. He found her a sympathizing com- 
panion, a zealous supporter. She understood 
his subtle music, she comprehended his aims, 
and as they worked together a worthy affec- 
tion grew up in both of them. The father was 
angry when he heard of this ; he had proph- 
esied Schumann's success in music when 
his anxious mother asked him to decide upon 
her son's career, in 1830, but in 1837 he 
found this altogether too dubious to allow 
him to give the hand of his daughter to the 
young aspirant. 

Mendelssohn and Schumann. 191 

Right sturdily did Schumann set himself 
about winning his bride ; she had promised 
to wait for him while he conquered fortune, 
and therefore he set forth to the long battle 
with good courage. He went to Vienna, 
because he thought that his chances would 
be better there, but he found that the Vien- 
nese cared little for the dreamy, romantic 

While in Vienna, however, he found a 
dusty score, which proved to be Schubert's 
greatest symphony, and he saved this to the 
world ; he also found a pen upon the grave 
of Beethoven, and, his mystical feelings being 
aroused, with this same pen he wrote his 
glorious symphony in B flat, a worthy succes- 
sor to the great Beethoven symphonies. 

He gave a series of lectures at a college, 
and received the title of " Doctor " as an 
added honor; finally, in 1839, having won 
something of fame and a respectable income, 
he entered suit for the hand of Clara Wieck, 

192 Great Composers and Their Work, 

not a love but a law suit. In Saxony it 
was permissible if two lovers were separated 
by the opposition of parents, if they were of 
age and there were no good cause to forbid 
marriage, to enter suit to compel the parents 
to show cause why the banns should be for- 
bidden ; if no impediment were shown, the 
court could " recommend " to the parents to 
give their consent, and the marriage was 
permitted. This was what took place in 
Schumann's case in 1839, an ^ September 
12, 1840, the faithful pair were married. 

Music at once resulted from this union. 
Schumann always wrote most and best when 
he was happiest (in darker days melancholy 
would seem to crush out inspiration), and the 
wedding year of 1840 found him bursting 
into song, and telling of his happiness in 
"Poet's Love" (" Dichterliebe "), of his 
Clara's experience in "Woman's Life and 
Love " (a cycle that was prophetic, for the 
hero dies, and the widow lives on in mem- 

Mendelssohn and Schumann. 193 

ories), and besides these two greatest of Ger- 
man Song Cycles the contented husband 
composed his beautiful B flat symphony, also 
autobiographical music, which he originally 
intended to call " Spring Symphony," a paean 
of triumph. 

From the above the reader will readily 
surmise that Schumann was fond of giving his 
own experiences in his compositions ; proba- 
bly no other composer did this so directly as 
he. Studying his works from this standpoint, 
one is struck with the oppositional character 
of some of them ; one does not, to be sure, find 
a Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but one finds 
two characters quite as diverse. The key to 
this contrasted style is also to be sought in 
Schumann's own character ; he said of him- 
self that at times he was an aggressive radi- 
cal, and at times a sensitive, introspective 
poet ; he gave these characters names, and 
called the fiery nature " Florestan," the 
dreamer " Eusebius ; " he often signed his 

194 Great Composers and Their Work. 

criticisms by these names, according to their 
moods, and some of his music carries one or 
the other signature, his first piano sonata both. 
In his literary work he evolved a third char- 
acter which should mediate between these 
two oppositional ones, and he called this 
party " Master Raro." All these fancies 
show a dwelling in dreamland that was 
dangerous for a mind with the tendency 
towards insanity that existed here. 

In 1843 we find Schumann a coadjutor of 
Mendelssohn in the new conservatory in 
Leipzig ; here he was teacher of composition, 
and otherwise active. During a subsequent 
concert tour in Russia the symptoms of 
mental malady again showed themselves. In 
1850 Schumann was appointed successor to 
Hiller at Diisseldorf, and the beautiful Rhine 
life seems to have benefited him somewhat. 
The "Cologne Symphony" was a result of 
his surroundings here. 

But the improvement was only temporary, 

Mendelssohn and Schumann. 195 

and in 1853 the symptoms of mental aliena- 
tion grew more pronounced. He began to 
attend spiritualistic seances, and imagined 
that Beethoven was trying to communicate 
with him by means of four knocks upon the 
table, the figure of the first movement of 
the Fifth Symphony ; he fancied himself 
haunted by Schubert, who begged him to 
finish the " Unfinished Symphony ; " he 
imagined that the note " A " was always 
sounding in his ears, and gradually whole com- 
positions seemed to grow above this continual 
organ-point ; he thought that spirits brought 
him themes. February 27, 1854, he wrote 
down one of these themes (Brahms has set it 
as piano variations ending with a funeral 
march), and then came one of those dreadful 
lucid intervals in which he was conscious that 
he was going crazy ; he rushed from the 
house to the river, and threw himself in with 
a hope of ending all his troubles ; some pass- 
ing sailors rescued him, but the shock was 

196 Great Composers and Their Work. 

too severe, and his mind gave way altogether ; 
two years more he lingered on, an incurable 
patient at an asylum in Endenich. His wife 
was forbidden to visit him, for it seemed to 
excite his emotions too greatly to see her. 
He died July 29, 1856. 



AFTER the foundation of opera (1594- 
1 600) there were many composers in countries 
widely separated who took up the new school 
of work ; we have traced the Italian efforts 
to the time of their decadence and defeat by 
the superior work and theories of Gluck. 
In England the greatest musical genius that 
the country had ever produced, Henry Purcell 
(1658-1695), wrote more than fifty operas, 
copying the Italian school, and also being the 
first to introduce Italian terms of expression 
into English usage. A great organist, a 
thorough contrapuntist, far in advance of all 
other English composers in his grace and 
fluency of expression, Purcell deserves an 

198 Great Composers and Their Work. 

especial place in history as having been the 
composer of the melody (originally a quick- 
step) which became world-famous as " Lilli- 
burlero," the war song of the Revolution of 
1688. Lord Wharton, the author of the 
doggerel poetry, claimed that he had rhymed 
James the Second out of his dominions, but 
it was Purcell who, with his catchy melody, 
won the day for England, a triumph only 
second to that of Rouget de 1'Isle, during the 
French Revolution, with his " Marseillaise." 
In France Jean Baptiste Lully (1633-1687) 
founded an opera which was intertwined with 
comedy, tragedy, or ballet, according to the 
moods and commands of the Grand Mo- 
narque, Louis XIV. In evolving this species 
of entertainment Lully had the enormous 
advantage of collaborating with the " French 
Shakespeare " Moliere. Lully rose from 
the menial position of scullion in the kitchen 
of Mile, de Montpensier to the high rank of 
favorite composer of the court of Louis XIV. 

A Batch of Operatic Composers. 1 99 

He died honored and wealthy. His death 
was brought about by a peculiar accident : 
he was directing a rehearsal of his Te Deum. 
composed in honor of the king's recovery 
from an illness ; he was an irascible man, a 
leader who had once broken a violinist's fiddle 
over his head because of an imperfect per- 
formance ; things were not going well at this 
particular rehearsal, and Lully was pounding 
his long staff upon the floor (the mode of 
conducting music at that time) with extreme 
violence ; suddenly he had the misfortune to 
strike his own gouty foot ; gangrene set in, 
Lully refused to allow amputation, and the 
founder of modern French opera practically 
died of conducting. 

Jean Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) devel- 
oped the legacy which Lully had left to the 
French nation, and his boldness of modula- 
tion and dramatic instinct made him in some 
degree the precursor of Weber. As Rameau 
discovered the laws of chords and their for- 

2OO Great Composers and Their Work. 

mation, he may be considered the father of 
modern harmony. He left a treatise upon 
this subject, which, although containing some 
errors, yet led Catel, Fetis, Godfrey Weber, 
Richter, and others to their more practical 
methods of harmony. His harpsichord works 
are also very important, and Rameau was an 
important reformer in the musical art, not 
only for the kingdom of France but for the 
entire world. Following him there comes a 
long and honorable line of composers in 
France, among whom can be named Gre"try 
(1741-1813), whose " Richard Coeur de Lion" 
remains a gem of the modern repertoire ; 
Mehul (1763-1817), favorite composer of the 
great Napoleon ; Boieldieu (1775-1834), best 
of all the older French operatic composers, 
a Parisian Mozart ; and in modern times 
Auber (1782-1871), and others who demand 
more extended notice. 

Very many of the modern French com- 
posers came under the influence of a stern 

A Batch of Operatic Composers. 201 

and exacting teacher, who, in spite of some 
great errors of judgment, exerted a powerful 
influence upon advancing French art. This 
was an Italian who brought to France all 
that was best of the old contrapuntal 


Luigi Carlo Zenobi Salvatore Maria 
Cherubini, whose name was somewhat short- 
ened when in practical use, was born in 
Florence, in 1760, and was a pupil of Sarti. 
He was in England a short time, and had 
heard Gluck's French operas and Haydn's 
orchestral music, being influenced by both. 
He was in France in 1789, and saw the in- 
ception and progress of the Revolution, join- 
ing the National Guard, and writing Jacobin 
music, to avoid the chance of losing his head 
in the dangerous days of "The Terror." He 
was a harsh character and a most severe 
critic. He became head of the Paris Con- 

2O2 Great Composers and Their Work. 

servatoire, and not only rejected Liszt and 
Rubinstein, when these great artists were at 
the beginning of their careers, but also 
sneered at Berlioz, when that genius, in the 
Conservatoire, was giving proof of his bold 
flights in orchestral work. 

A quarrel with Napoleon forced him out of 
composition for awhile, but during a subse- 
quent sojourn in Belgium he again took up his 
work. After the restoration of the Bourbons 
the Conservatoire was reopened, and Cherubini 
again became its head. He now published 
his great work on counterpoint and fugue. 
He wrote some operas which Beethoven 
greatly admired, but his greatest works were 
in the sacred school, and Beethoven held 
these to be models of pure art. His re- 
quiem masses remain a monument of contra- 
puntal skill, and his pure, chaste style can be 
studied in the overture to "The Watercar- 
rier," which is often heard in the modern 

A Batch of Operatic Composers. 203 

As a man Cherubini was far more feared 
than loved, yet it must be confessed that his 
severe influence was very beneficial to France, 
and prevented a lapse into triviality, of which, 
in the early part of the century, there was 
some danger. He died in 1842. He had 
the courage to say to Boieldieu, when his 
" Caliph of Bagdad " had captured all Paris, 
"Are you not ashamed to enjoy such an 
undeserved success ? " and the younger com- 
poser took the remark sufficiently to heart to 
become one of Cherubini' s pupils, and even- 
tually to produce greater works, as " La 
Dame Blanche," for example, as a conse- 

Auber was also a pupil of Cherubini, and 
was his successor in the directorship of the 
Conservatoire. In later days another com- 
poser of operas obtained the directorship, 
Ambroise Thomas (1811-1895), and carried 
still further the successes of the French 
operatic school. The most promising of all 

2O4 Great Composers and Their Work. 

of the moderns in France, however, Georges 
Bizet (1838-1875), died too young to give 
forth his full message to the art world. His 
music in " L'Arlesienne," and his opera of 
" Carmen," show him to have been the most 
promising composer of France, as Purcell 
was of England. 


Although Wagner has called Meyerbeer 
"a miserable music-maker," "a Jew banker 
to whom it occurred to make operas," one 
cannot dismiss Giacomo Meyerbeer with so 
harsh a verdict. Although a German his 
influence was so entirely exerted in France 
that a notice of his life falls properly in line 
with French operatic development. 

His name was Jacob Liebmann Beer. His 
father was one of the richest of German bank- 
ers, and the family was Jewish. All the 
family were talented in one direction or 
another. During his childhood one of the 

A Batch of Operatic Composers. 205 

rich uncles of the boy died, leaving him all 
his property on condition that the avuncular 
name of Meyer be added to the boy's name 
of Beer, whence came " Meyer-Beer." 
Meyerbeer was born in 1791 and died in 
1863. His chief teacher was Abt Vogler, 
who also had the great Weber for a pupil. 
That Meyerbeer was dramatic cannot be 
doubted ; that he was a master of orchestral 
resources is also indisputable ; but he was 
not born to be a leader in art. He had 
approbativeness in the highest degree, and 
sought above all things immediate approval 
and applause ; as a consequence he wrote 
down to his public, and never attempted to 
lead them. Such a man could not fail to be 
antipathetic to Wagner, who made the art- 
ideal his only religion. 

Meyerbeer was fortunate in being able to 
secure the best librettists for his operas, 
and his two chief works, " Robert le Diable " 
and " Les Huguenots," show how keenly 

2o6 Great Composers and Their Work. 

alive he was to the dramatic opportunities 
they afforded to his muse. He was not of 
the stuff of which martyrs are made, yet he 
was able to rule French opera for many 
decades, and, spite of the great advance 
made in the operatic field, chiefly because of 
Wagner, his works are by no means obliter- 
ated, but are very frequently heard on the 
stage to-day. That Meyerbeer did not live 
up to his own highest musical ideals must be 
conceded even by his warmest followers ; 
even the gentle Schumann grew indignant 
about some of his vulgarities in opera; yet 
he was an important influence in his time, 
and many who have abused him have not 
scrupled to appropriate some of his orches- 
tral effects. 

Herold and HaleVy also may be mentioned 
among those who had an effect upon the 
French school of opera. Among the latest 
composers who worked in this field one may 
speak of Gounod and Saint Saens. 

A Batch of Operatic Composers. 207 


Charles Gounod, born 1818, died 1895, 
came of an artistic family, although the tal- 
ents of his father and grandfather were ex- 
erted not in the domain of music, but of 
sketching, engraving, and painting. Gounod 
was a pupil of the Paris Conservatoire, and 
won the Prix de Rome (the greatest musical 
prize the world offers) at the French Insti- 
tute in 1840. He had a strong tendency 
towards religion in his early years, and came 
so near to taking holy orders that "Abbe 
Gounod " was printed as the name of the 
composer on some of his music. This reli- 
gious fervor returned to him in old age. His 
first important compositions, therefore, were 
masses, and these are far more earnest and 
genuine than the religious music which 
Gounod brought forth in his later accession 
of religious zeal. 

His first operas were absolute failures, and 

208 Great Composers and Their Work. 

the non-success sent him back for a time 
to sacred composition. "Faust," however, 
changed all this ; this opera was produced in 
1859, and, strange to say, was not an imme- 
diate success. The verdict of critics and pub- 
lic soon became favorable, however, and after 
the Theatre Lyrique had produced the work 
four hundred times the Grand Opera House 
asked for it. It has been produced in Paris 
alone more than one thousand times. "Ro- 
meo and Juliet " was scarcely less of a popu- 
lar success, and Paris has heard this opera 
over five hundred times. Gounod's other 
operas are eclipsed by these two successes, but 
all of them have some worth. His operatic 
composition seems to be a pleasant half-way 
house between the classical and the popular 
style, and his orchestral devices and his 
working up of climaxes are often admirable. 

After a life that was very far from being 
religious, we find our composer in sacred 
work again, and his "Redemption" (1882) 

A Batch of Operatic Composers. 209 

and "Mors et Vita" (very much overrated 
works) prove the saying, " On revient tou- 
jours a ses premieres amours." 


Saint Saens was born in Paris, October 9, 
1835. ^ e began the study of music when 
he was scarcely three years old, exhibiting 
as early precocity as Mozart. He became a 
student at the Conservatoire, that institution 
which has done so much to develop the com- 
posers of its nation. Saint Saens has written 
several operas which have won success, al- 
though they are by no means as popular or 
as easily comprehended as those of Gounod 
or of Thomas ; but in his orchestral works the 
composer easily holds the first rank among 
all the modern French composers ; he is a 
master of scoring, and his Symphonic Poems 
(they are not akin to symphonies, for in 
French the word " symphonique " simply 
means " orchestral ") are excellent examples 

2io Great Composers and Their Work. 

of what can be done with the modern orches- 
tra. Saint Saens is one of the best organists 
now living, and his organ compositions are 
only second to those of Widor in the modern 
French school. The composer is one of the 
wealthiest of musicians, but possibly this 
same affluence, as in the case of Mendelssohn 
or Meyerbeer, prevents him from attaining 
the highest expression of emotion, which is 
born in some degree of the combats of life. 

In Italy the development of opera, after 
the reforms of Gluck had checked the false 
direction of art, was somewhat in the nature 
of a retrogression. A genius came upon the 
scene just after Gluck had established his the- 
ories, whose misapplied abilities decidedly set 
back musical progress in the operatic field. 


Gioacchino Rossini was born at Pesaro, 
February 29, 1792. By his admirers he is 
called " The Swan of Pesaro," but the Wag- 

A Batch of Operatic Composers. 2 1 1 

nerians by no means acquiesce in this title. 
His youth, passed amid the troubles of the 
Franco-Italian campaigns, was by no means a 
pleasant one, until, by his sweet voice, he 
was able to earn some money and gain musi- 
cal tuition in Bologna. He had a fatal 
facility of composition which led him to pour 
forth opera after opera. In these works he 
was absolutely innocent of any knowledge of 
the theories of Gluck, which demanded dra- 
matic significance of the music as well as 
beauty of melody or harmony. To illustrate 
the weakness of the brilliant school of Ros- 
sini, one need only to cite the bright and 
genial melody of " Cujus Animam " in his 
" Stabat Mater " where the sighs of the 
weeping mother are supposed to be pictured, 
or the showy fioritura of " Semiramide " 
which scintillate even in the most tragic 
moments of that opera. Per contra it must 
be admitted that sometimes Rossini united 
the sentiment of the poem with the music in 

212 Great Composers and Their Work. 

marvellous fashion ; the " Quando Corpus " 
of the "Stabat Mater," the " Inflammatus " 
of the same work, the entire opera of "The 
Barber of Seville," almost the entire opera of 
" William Tell " show conclusively what a 
great leader in the development of dramatic 
expression in opera Rossini might have been, 
had he cared to take the true path. 

Naples, Rome, Paris, finally the whole 
civilized world, fell under the spell of the 
charming melodies which the careless genius 
was pouring forth, and as the singers found 
the works very vocal and admirably calculated 
to display their talents, and as the public 
had no art-theories in particular, it is not 
astonishing that Rossini threw Gluck en- 
tirely into the shade and stood as a barrier 
to the success of Beethoven's one opera and 
of such other composers as were prating of 
"dramatic unity" or "fitness of things." 

After successes in London and Paris, 
Rossini seems to have determined upon a 

A Batch of Operatic Composers. 213 

magnum opus, an opera that should display 
his capabilities to the utmost. "William 
Tell " was the result, and it was performed 
in Paris, August 3, 1829. In this opera 
Rossini seems to have definitely followed the 
path indicated by Gluck ; there is no longer 
vocal display merely for the sake of display, 
there are no senseless roulades, the com- 
poser no longer fishes for the public with a 
melody-baited hook, but all is dignified, fit- 
ting, deeply dramatic. With this great art 
success Rossini retired from the operatic 
stage. His works had made him wealthy, 
and he probably felt that he could not go 
beyond the point he had attained. He died 
long after this, on the thirteenth of Novem- 
ber, 1 868 ; but, although he wrote much 
music after 1 829, he could not be persuaded 
to attempt another opera after "William 
Tell," his masterwork. 

Rossini led to a false school of operatic 
writing. Other composers seeing his success, 

214 Great Composers and Their Work. 

and believing that melody and vocal display 
were all that were necessary to make a good 
opera, wrote much that posterity needed to 
sift out. Bellini (1802-1835) followed with 
" Norma " and " La Somnambula," and died 
too young to regain the correct path, as 
Rossini had finally done. Donizetti (1798- 
1848) won the plaudits of the world with 
such works as "Lucia," "Linda di Cha- 
mounix," and other melodic and harmonious 
untruths, and carried on the Rossini half- 
truths to their legitimate conclusion. Poetry 
and music seemed almost divorced, or, at 
least, the latter became tyrant over the for- 
mer. But a thunder-storm was coming to 
clear the atmosphere ; already the premoni- 
tions of the tempest were heard in the operas 
which Germany was beginning to produce. 


Kreutzer, Marschner, and Lortzing were 
significant straws as to the direction in which 

A Batch of Operatic Composers. 215 

German opera was progressing, but the true 
light of dramatic power and of orchestral effi- 
ciency arose in the works of Carl Maria von 
Weber. His was a school following the 
artistic laws which Gluck had laid down, and 
also calling to its aid the pure influence of 
the music of the people, the wild-briar rose 
of art, the folk-song. 

Weber's father was a good musician, a 
spendthrift, a poor scion of an aristocratic 
family, and an unreliable character altogether. 
The boy was born at Eutin, December 18, 
1786, although the date is questioned. He 
was an invalid from birth, and suffered all 
his days with a hip disease. He studied 
music at an early age, and Beethoven's satir- 
ical statement that Weber entered music so 
late that he could attain nothing beyond the 
art of pleasing is disproved by a set of fu- 
ghettas, or fugal expositions, which the boy 
wrote at eleven years of age, and which still 
exist. The lad was bred in a theatrical 

2 1 6 Great Composers and Their Work. 

atmosphere from the very outset. His 
father was connected with the stage, and 
the young Weber came in constant contact 
with singers and actors. The theatrical 
flavor of even his sonatas is noticeable, 
and this footlight character is by no means 
to be regarded as a defect in his operas. 

Weber's musical training, although begun 
early, was by no means regular. His chief 
teacher was the celebrated Abb6 Vogler, 
whom Browning celebrated in verse, who 
taught Meyerbeer, whom Mozart cordially 
detested and called a charlatan, but who 
seems to have had success with his pupils, 
nevertheless. The same Abt Vogler was an 
eccentric character, who boasted, "I can 
make a composer in three weeks, and a good 
singer in six months." He certainly made a 
good composer of Weber in a short time. 

Weber seems to have been a very wild and 
immoral youth. His indiscretions became so 
numerous that he was finally expelled from 

A Batch of Operatic Composers. 217 

the city of Stuttgart by the king's order. 
In 1810, however, there seems to have been 
a great and sudden change for the better, 
and the composer became more earnest and 
artistic. He married Caroline Brandt in 
1817, and her pure influence upon him was 
of the most beneficial character. 

In 1821 Weber became the operatic liber- 
ator of Germany. Instead of following the 
decadent Italian school, our composer set 
himself about writing an opera that should 
be distinctly German, and " Der Freischiitz " 
was the result. This opera was produced in 
Berlin, June 18, 1821, and was a work to 
which the overused adjective "epoch-mak- 
ing" may be justly applied. There was a 
short battle, almost as vehement as the fight 
between Gluckism and Piccinism had been a 
half century before, and once more the higher 
art vanquished the lower. German opera was 

Weber afterwards wrote " Euryanthe " for 

2 1 8 Great Composers and Their Work. 

Vienna, and, although handicapped by an 
absurd libretto, won fair success there. 
Here he met Beethoven, and a reconciliation 
was effected between the pair, who had been 
long estranged. 

Weber was so thoroughly imbued with the 
spirit of German national music, that he was 
able to produce folk-songs that may almost 
be regarded as national hymns. Such a 
work is the stirring " Sword-song," set to the 
words which the great poet Korner wrote on 
the day before he met his death in battle : 

" Thou sword at my side glancing, 
What means this gleam entrancing ? 
Gazest with pride on me, 
Say what can the meaning be? 

" I am a freeman's treasure, 
That fills thy sword with pleasure. 
Where tyrants bar the way 
There will we join the fray." 

A poem which in verse after verse breathes 
forth the love of liberty, and in which there 

A Batch of Operatic Composers. 219 

was no mesalliance in the wedding of music 
to the words. 

The death of Weber was a heroic one ; he 
was very ill when the munificent patron-city 
of art, London, sent for him to conduct one 
of his operas in England. Covent Garden 
Theatre offered one thousand pounds for the 
privilege of hearing " Oberon " for the first 
time, under the direction of the composer. 
Weber knew that he was near his end, but 
he wished to provide for his family, and 
therefore, invalid as he was, he led the 
first performance in London, April 12, 1826. 
Other English concerts followed. It was his 
last triumph. June 5, 1826, he was found 
dead in his bed, in London. He had won 
the prize for his wife, but had given up his 
life in the effort. 

Weber's scoring is something especially 
brilliant ; he achieved new effects with the 
orchestra, such as even Beethoven could not 
understand. He loved the horns and the 

22O Great Composers and Their Work. 

clarinet, and these instruments owe some 
of their most striking effects to his dis- 
coveries. Following Gluck, it was a most 
natural thing that Weber should lead to a 
greater development in the same direction; 
he was the guide-post that pointed out the 
path to a still higher ideal, which afterwards 
culminated in some of the operas of Richard 



WE have already stated the causes which 
made a reform in opera necessary, and we 
have seen how Gluck and Weber in some 
degree attempted this reform ; but a more 
radical reformer was required, it needed an 
absolute iconoclast to break the fetters in 
which poetry was bound by music, it required 
a genius, and a bold one, to restore the 
proper relationship between the two arts. 
This genius was born in Leipzig, May 22, 
1813, and was named Wilhelm Richard 
Wagner. His father, an actuary and chief 
of police of the city, died the same year. 
His mother married again, this time an actor 

222 Great Composers and Their Work. 

at the Dresden Theatre, named Ludwig 
Geyer, a man of artistic tastes and con- 
siderable ability, a stepfather who became a 
loving parent to the young boy, who had as 
yet shown no especial talent. 

Like Schumann, Wagner ripened late ; at 
seven he was able to strum a couple of simple 
tunes on the piano, and the stepfather, then 
lying on his death-bed, murmured : " I wonder 
if the boy has any talent for music." The 
talent then suspected never took the direc- 
tion of technical ability, for to the end of his 
days Wagner was a most inferior performer. 

During his childhood, which was chiefly 
spent in Dresden, the boy exhibited a strong 
tendency towards poetry ; he wrote an ode 
on the death of a schoolmate, which was 
printed, and he concocted a terrific tragedy, 
a mixture of " King Lear," " Hamlet," and 
"Titus Andronicus," in which he was so 
sanguinary that he killed all his characters 
in the first act, and, not wishing to shorten 

Wagner: His Life and Theories. 223 

his play, caused their ghosts to return to 
carry on the rest of the tragedy. 

In 1828, at the age of fifteen, Wagner 
went to Leipzig, to the Nicolai School. This 
was a most important trip, for he now at- 
tended the Gewandhaus concerts, and for 
the first time heard the symphonies and 
overtures of Beethoven. It was like the 
touch of a magician's wand ; he at once 
became a musician, a composer. He tried 
to write music to his own blood-and-thunder 
plays, but found himself balked by a lack 
of knowledge ; therefore he began taking 
lessons of Gottlieb Mtiller, a martinet who 
did not understand his pupil at all, but tried 
to turn the mountain torrent into a Dutch 
canal. The too strict enforcing of pedantic 
rules led to an explosion in which the pupil 
was even less respectful to his master than 
Beethoven had been to Haydn. 

A second teacher had the wisdom to see 
that he was dealing with an exceptional 

224 Great Composers and Their Work. 

nature ; this was Theodore Weinlig, cantor 
at the Thomas School (where Bach had 
taught), who led Wagner to an understand- 
ing of the methods of Mozart and other con- 
servative masters. In about six months the 
training was completed, and this half year 
seems to have been all the teaching that 
Wagner ever received. But the reader must 
not be deceived by this statement ; in " The 
Master - singers of Nuremberg " Wagner 
causes Walther to respond to the query as 
to where he had studied, "Walther von der 
Vogelweide was my master," whereupon the 
narrow-minded Beckmesser cavils, " A good 
master, but long since dead ! " Wagner in 
the same manner had a teacher who had 
passed from the land of the living, for 
Beethoven was absolutely and almost en- 
tirely the teacher of the young aspirant, who 
studied his scores with an enthusiasm that 
soon made him the best Beethoven student 
in all Germany. 

Wagner : His Life and Theories. 225 

As a youth Wagner tried his hand at 
symphony, sonata, and overture ; but he was 
not fitted for this symmetrical school, and 
his symphony and sonata seem almost puer- 
ile, and bear no comparison to his later 

In 1833 we find the incipient composer in 
Wiirzburg occupied as chorus-master at the 
opera, all his family being more or less 
connected with operatic performances. His 
family at this time regarded him as a very 
unpractical person who was unlikely to win 
success in any branch of music. His first 
opera was now composed ; it was founded 
upon the style of Auber and Bellini, whom 
the youth now regarded as stage models, 
and was entitled " The Fairies." It is a 
farrago of sensationalism which has now 
very sensibly been withdrawn from the stage ; 
it presents every conventionality, a mad- 
scene, slumber-song, transformation-scene, 
etc., and in its music there is only now and 

226 Great Composers and Their Work. 

then a glimpse of the boldness of the radical. 
In listening to the performances of this work 
in Munich, in 1888, it was difficult to imagine 
that the creator of such an opera could ever 
make his mark in music ; it was another 
proof of the lateness of Wagner's develop- 
ment. His second opera, " Das Liebesver- 
bot," was a rather immoral perversion of 
Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure." 

In 1834 Wagner became director at 
Magdeburg, where the bankruptcy of the 
theatre soon set in and forced him to 
wander further. We next find him (in 1836) 
at Konigsberg, and the subsequent year at 
Riga. Here he married a beautiful actress, 
Wilhelmina Planer, whom he had followed 
from Magdeburg. This marriage led to no 
happy results, for Wagner demanded abso- 
lute homage from those around him, and a 
full belief in his powers, and this unhappy 
woman could not comprehend his genius ; but 
poor Minna Planer was an uncomplaining 

Wagner: His Life and Theories. 227 

wife to him through all the dark days 
which followed, through the dismal voyages, 
through the semi-starvation in Paris ; she 
sacrificed her own career without a murmur 
(she had been a very promising actress and 
singer), and became a household drudge amid 
the gloomiest surroundings. This counted 
for nothing with Wagner, who generally 
looked only at his own side of a question ; 
he separated from his faithful helpmate in 
1861, and Minna Planer died, isolated, in 
1866. The ultra- Wagnerians have used a 
great deal of whitewash in this matter, but 
have not been able to obliterate the stain. 
Wagner was ungrateful here as he was in 
many other parts of his career ; but we must 
learn to discriminate between the man and 
the artist ; as a man Wagner had many 
base attributes, as an artist he was ready 
to lay down his life, to be tortured to death, 
for his ideal ; there is no instance in the 
entire realm of musical history, not even in 

228 Great Composers and Their Work. 

the self-abnegating labors of Bach and Pales- 
trina, of such entire and loyal devotion to an 
art-ideal ; no man dare attempt to strike the 
balance between these two natures of a 
single being. 

To return to Riga : Wagner was now 
beginning to develop his grandiose views in 
opera, although he had as yet attained none 
of his theories. He was composing a great 
heroic opera (" Rienzi") in 1838, and in the 
next year he determined to venture all in 
order to give this work its proper setting ; 
he decided that the Paris Grand Opera was 
the only place where such a work could have 
its appropriate performance, and therefore set 
out on a voyage to that city accompanied 
by his wife, a large dog (Wagner was always 
very fond of animal pets), and the precious, 
though unfinished, score. Terrific storms 
twice threatened the party with shipwreck, 
and the composer was glad to stay in Lon- 
don awhile, before completing his journey. 

Wagner: His Life and Theories. 229 

This voyage was the seed whence sprang the 
graphic opera of " The Flying Dutchman." 

In Paris he was met by disappointment 
on every side. Meyerbeer tried to r.ssist him 
(Wagner once told a friend : " Had it not 
been for Meyerbeer my wife and I would 
have starved in Paris "), but the operatic 
managers held aloof. Writing musical arti- 
cles for the press, arranging operas for 
piano, cornet, and what not, and the com- 
position of some very fine songs, kept abso- 
lute hunger at bay. Meyerbeer induced 
Pillet, of the Grand Opera, to send for the 
young composer, but little came of it save 
that Pillet bought the libretto of " The Fly- 
ing Dutchman " for five hundred francs. 

In 1840 Wagner turned to Germany for 
help and sent his "Rienzi" to Dresden, 
where it was promptly accepted. It was the 
turning-point of his career ; " Rienzi " made 
a tremendous success, and the days of strug- 
gle were apparently over. In 1841 the com- 

230 Great Composers and Their Work. 

poser was snugly installed as kapellmeister 
(conductor) in Dresden, and the future path 
seemed plain. 

Here we come to another proof of Wag- 
ner's superb honesty in art matters. Some 
of the English Philistines have written an- 
imadversions upon Wagner, stating that his 
theories were born of pique and of inability 
to write in the regular paths of opera. 
" Rienzi " gives the lie to this absurd state- 
ment ; all that Dresden wanted of Wagner 
was more of the same sort ; but the com- 
poser was beginning to suspect that " Ri- 
enzi " did not represent the highest operatic 
art, and deliberately left the smooth path in 
which certain success awaited him, to push 
along the thorny road of reform ; his " Fly- 
ing Dutchman" (true dramatic ideal) dis- 
appointed many, although Spohr was made 
a convert by it; his " Tannhauser " disap- 
pointed everybody. 

Here was national opera, "German from 

Wagner: His Life and Theories. 231 

top to toe," continuity of action and music, 
dramatic meaning, yet the public would have 
nothing to do with it. Wagner did not 
recede (here, indeed, was the material of 
which art-martyrs are made), but pushed 
on still further towards the light. The abso- 
lute opposite of Meyerbeer, he cared not at 
all for the opinion of the public, but only for 
the advancement of music as he understood 
it. In later days he disavowed even these 
operas as not representing his full theories, 
but "The Flying Dutchman" and "Tann- 
hauser" may be accepted as examples of a 
purer and truer operatic vein than had before 
existed, in spite of the composer's interdict. 

Still pressing forward, Wagner began 
sketching something even bolder in " Lohen- 
grin," but there were to be stirring events 
between the inception of this opera and its 
completion. The revolutionary movement 
of 1848 drew Wagner into its vortex. Al- 
though there is some dispute as to how 

232 Great Composers and Their Work. 

closely the composer was associated with the 
radicals in this movement, there is little 
doubt that he made speeches urging that 
Saxony ought to be free and that he was at 
the barricades during the actual fighting in 
May, 1849. As a consequence, when the 
royal troops had dispersed the rioters, Wag- 
ner found himself proscribed and obliged to 
fly for his life ; he fled to Weimar, to Liszt, 
who had known him in Paris, and who now 
and henceforth was one of his most devoted 
friends. Liszt smuggled him safely across 
the frontier, and Wagner hastened, via Paris, 
to Switzerland. A long period of exile was 
to ensue, but Wagner was no longer a starv- 
ing neophyte. He was now a well-known 
composer and conductor, and the period of 
exile gave him just the required leisure to 
examine more thoroughly into the theories 
of art which he saw glimmering upon his 
horizon. He saw also that the public must 
be educated to a higher ideal, and began to 

Wagner: His Life and Theories. 233 

become a pamphleteer, as Gluck had been 
before him in a similar situation. 

He did not confine his pamphlets to defin- 
ing his music, but fiercely attacked whatever 
stood in his way. He found the public 
adoration of Meyerbeer a stumbling-block, 
and therefore not only attacked this com- 
poser but extended his virulence to his entire 
race, root and branch ; .his pamphlet on 
" Judaism in Music," an impeachment of the 
most musical race of the world as being un- 
musical, although published under a false 
name (" K. Freigedank "), was speedily traced 
home to Wagner, and had the effect of rivet- 
ing the public attention to the strivings of 
a man who was so audacious. 

Meanwhile a new factor in his advance 
had begun to exert itself ; he had read the 
works of the pessimistic philosopher, Scho- 
penhauer, and in these had found a confirma- 
tion of his views, and food for the evolution 
of new theories. The result was a new 

234 Great Composers and Their Work. 

school of music. As the public could not 
appreciate anything so much in advance of 
its accepted ideas, Wagner appealed to pos- 
terity and called his compositions " the music 
of the future ; " but progress came more 
speedily than he had imagined. He lived to 
see his music on the very top wave of popu- 
larity, and " the music of the future " has 
very decidedly become "the music of the 
present." The theories on which this new 
school was founded are chiefly these : 

ist. The abolition of conventional forms. 
That musical sandwich which is called the 
" Aria " found no place in Wagner's later 
works ; he desired that the composer should 
not be trammelled by an architectural plan. 

2nd. Continuity and unity. The opera 
was not to subdivide itself into " a string of 
pretty pearls," but was to be one large in- 
divisible gem. The music was to flow on 
continuously, and all such divisions as give 
rise to interpolated applause, encores, etc., 

Wagner: His Life and Theories. 235 

were abolished ; a vast step in the right 

$rd. The proper union and relationship 
of poetry and music were insisted upon. 
One cannot too strongly praise this point, 
which Gluck had first explained, but which 
Wagner riveted on modern opera. He im- 
pressed this truth in many ways in his 
pamphlets, and still more effectively in his 
works. " Music is the handmaid of poetry ; " 
" In the wedding of these two arts, poetry is 
the man, music the woman ; " " Poetry must 
lead, music must follow ; " these were a few 
of the apothegms which may be found in 
Wagner's writings. Herbert Spencer had 
arraigned certain kinds of songs in these 
words : " They are compositions which sci- 
ence would forbid. They sin against science 
by setting to music ideas that are not emo- 
tional enough to prompt musical expression, 
and they also sin against science by using 
musical phrases that have no natural relation 

236 Great Composers and Their Work. 

to the ideas expressed, even when these are 
emotional. They are bad because they are 
untrue, and to say that they are untrue is to 
say that they are unscientific." 

If we weigh the favorite sextet from 
" Lucia " in these scales, we shall find that it 
is utterly wanting. But Wagner summed 
up Herbert Spencer's views in three words, 
words which deserve to be emblazoned on 
the walls of every school of composition, 
" Music is Truth ! " 

Judged by this correct standard very much 
of the music of Rossini, Donizetti, etc., is a lie. 

^th. Wagner held that mere melody was 
unnecessary in music. He returned to the 
melodic recitative in which the first operatic 
composers had endeavored to imitate the 
speaking voice with the singing one. Wag- 
ner called this recitative the " Melos," and all 
his later operas are founded upon it. This 
may be called one of the moot points of the 
Wagnerian school ; it is by no means proven 

Wagner: His Life and Theories. 237 

that music would be advanced by the aboli- 
tion of symmetrical tune, yet one must 
warmly defend Wagner from the charge of 
inability to write direct and comprehensible 
tunes ; his operas up to the time of " Lohen- 
grin " are full of definite melody, and in the 
later works, notably in " The Master-singers," 
there are melodies of ineffable beauty. 

$th. Wagner did not believe in formality 
in the treatment of keys. With him the 
relationship of keys was at any and all times 
utterly free. He called this freedom of mod- 
ulation "swimming in a sea of tone," and 
was able to achieve wonderful effects with it, 
but lesser composers in imitating this bold- 
ness only become vague ; they drown in the 
above mentioned sea ! 

6th. Wagner believed that if music must 
be true to poetry, poetry must be true to 
itself ; the librettos were to be worthy of 
musical setting. In previous times the li- 
brettos had often become so absurd that the 

238 Great Composers and Their Work. 

French had a saying " Whatever is too 
stupid to be spoken may be sung ! " Wagner 
held that a libretto to be worthy of operatic 
treatment should be able to make its way 
without music, also ; it should be worthy of 
production as a play. Here again one must 
pay homage to the reforms of a genius, and 
Verdi, let him deny the soft impeachment as 
he will, was obliged to forsake his weak opera 
librettos because Wagner had brought a 
purer atmosphere in this field. Some of 
Wagner's librettos, his own productions, are 
dramatic gems of the first water. 

*]th. Wagner employed the orchestra as 
an important part of the dramatic picture, 
even as Gluck had done ; but he went far 
beyond Gluck, not only in intensity and 
power but in causing his orchestra to speak 
a definite language by means of the Leit- 
motif. This guiding-figure may be defined 
as a musical figure, sometimes a phrase, 
which is attached to some person, or thing, 

Wagner: His Life and Theories. 239 

or event, in the opera. Naturally, therefore, 
it must be expressive in character, and it re- 
quires genius to give the cruel character of 
Hunding, the solemn warning of Lohengrin, 
the coaxing tenderness of Eva, the imperious 
power of Siegfried, the mournful foreboding 
of Fate, in a few notes. The use of a guid- 
ing-figure was not the invention of Wagner, 
but no composer has ever used this device 
so finely or so freely as he. 

As the figure must always be clearly re- 
cognized, it being a clue to the action, it can- 
not be treated so freely as symphonists treat 
their figures in development ; it is generally 
treated only by transposition and by chang- 
ing the accompanying harmonies. Even a 
talented composer might readily become 
monotonous in employing such a device, 
but Wagner never approaches prosiness in 
his repetitions. 

The criticaster at once jumps to the con- 
clusion that the Leit-motif must be a childish 

240 Great Composers and Their Work. 

labelling of the various characters, that Hund- 
ing, Siegfried, Elsa, and everybody else go 
about wearing musical tickets of identifica- 
tion. Never was a more mistaken conclu- 
sion ! The guiding-figure sometimes allows us 
to look into the very mind and soul of the 
characters, and fulfils in the modern opera 
almost exactly the function of the chorus in 
the old Greek tragedies ; the orchestra is 
giving a series of comments and explanations 
to the trained auditor, just as the old cho- 
rus-chanters did in the plays of ^Eschylus, 
Euripides or Sophocles. 

These are not all of the theories of Wag- 
ner, for he extended his views as far as the 
architecture of the theatre and the concealing 
of the orchestra, but the above are sufficient 
to show that, while not every jot and tittle 
may be accepted by posterity, the world may 
be very grateful for the vast amount of truth 
forced in*o a school that was full of error, by 

Wagner: His Life and Theories. 241 

The national spirit which permeated most 
of Wagner's works was an outcome of his 
theories, and this nationality in music is 
bringing a new life-blood into modern art, 
Grieg, Tschaikowsky, Dvorak, and a host 
of others bringing their native melodies into 
instrumental and operatic music. 

During the early part of Wagner's exile, 
his loyal friend, Liszt, brought out " Lohen- 
grin" at Weimar. It is almost incredible 
that all the critics joined in a hue and cry 
against this opera, rinding it unmelodious (!), 
formless, meaningless, and holding it up 
as the quintessence of all that is bad in 
music. Almost every witling in Germany 
found opportunity to make his little fling 
at the new work, but Wagner cared little 
for this ; he was already far beyond " Lohen- 
grin " in his pursuit of an operatic ideal, he 
was beginning the largest work of his life, 
the vastest musical work ever dreamed of, 
the trilogy. 

242 Great Composers and Their Work. 

The first inception of this was in the opera 
of " Siegfried," but the story of the Teutonic 
demigod was not complete, to his mind, with- 
out Siegfried's death being also portrayed ; 
after this the composer-poet began to see 
that the causes which led to Siegfried's 
career must be shown, and finally he de- 
cided to tell with some completeness the 
entire story of the Ring of the Nibelungs. 
Never had such a vast work entered into 
the brain of man ! Here we have a wonder- 
ful proof of the greatness of Wagner's in- 
domitable nature on the artistic side ; it was 
utterly impossible that any operatic manager 
would ever accept a work that occupied four 
nights in its performance, that demanded vo- 
calists that should be of superhuman musical 
abilities and a stage setting that would seem 
to require the wealth of a king ; yet the com- 
poser labored on at the seemingly useless 
task in obedience to that must that whispers 
its command to genius only. Once he wrote 

Wagner : His Life and Theories. 243 

to a friend the loftiest words ever penned by 
a musician, "If I live to complete this 
work I shall have lived gloriously; if I die 
before it is done I shall have died for some- 
thing beautiful ! " 

But the thought came to him that if he 
died with his magnum opus incomplete the 
world would never know the entire meaning 
of his theories. He therefore suspended his 
labors long enough to write a shorter work 
which should be quite complete, and should 
embody in itself all of his theories of the 
music-drama. " Tristan and Isolde," the first 
embodiment of all Wagner's theories (1857- 
59), was the outcome of this idea. As he 
wanted to make the work as practicable as 
possible, he scored it for a smaller orchestra 
than he used in his trilogy, and he made no 
excessive demands in the matter of stage 
setting, but in the matter of vocal and 
orchestral difficulties he placed no restric- 
tions upon himself. The trilogy, with this 

244 Great Composers and Their Work. 

and other interruptions, required about 
twenty-five years for its completion ! 

In 1 86 1 Wagner gave another proof of 
his fidelity to his ideals. Princess Metter- 
nich took the composer under her protec- 
tion, and not only obtained permission for 
Wagner to return to Germany, but managed 
to get Napoleon III. to produce " Tann- 
hauser" with all possible splendor at the 
Grand Opera. In Paris it is the custom 
to interweave a ballet into each opera, or 
at the very least to interpolate one between 
the acts. The roue's of the Jockey Club, who 
held many of the ballet dancers under their 
special protection, demanded their ballet in 
" Tannhauser." Wagner replied that a 
series of tableaux might be introduced into 
the first act, at the Court of Venus, but 
nothing else could be permitted. 

At the same time Wagner made another 
heroic sacrifice to his theories. The over- 
ture to the opera had been its most sue- 

Wagner: His Life and Theories. 245 

cessful number ; its inspiring climax in the 
triumph of religion, as typified in the apo- 
theosis of the " Pilgrim's Chorus," is one 
of the supreme moments of the work; but 
a separate overture did not coincide with 
the "Theories," and it must therefore be 
sacrificed. The effective trombone and violin 
passage was cut out, and in its stead a rather 
dreary transition into the first scene of the 
opera was composed, which we are glad to 
say is seldom played to-day, the world re- 
fusing to ride the composer's hobby-horse, 
and recognizing the grandeur of the original 

The Jockey Club was up in arms at the 
slight put upon its female friends by a 
mere art-monger, and the three perform- 
ances of the opera were nothing more than 
riots, scarcely a note of the music being 
audible. After these troubles the work 
was withdrawn, but Wagner had carried 
his point, there was no ballet introduced. 

246 Great Composers and TJieir Work. 

Meyerbeer would have introduced a fire 
brigade or a merry-go-round had the Jockey 
Club demanded it of him. 

It became darkest before the dawn. In 
1864 even Wagner's undaunted spirit began 
to give way. He published the libretto of 
the trilogy with a sad preface, stating that 
there was no hope of ever bringing the work 
to completion. Just at that time a king 
came to his aid. Ludwig II. mounted the 
throne of Bavaria, and one of his first acts 
was to invite the composer to come to him 
that he might finish the great German art- 
work in comfort. It was Liszt and Ludwig II. 
of Bavaria who saved Wagner to the world. 

All was changed in an instant. Not only 
comfort but luxury surrounded the composer 
henceforth. "Tristan and Isolde" was per- 
formed under the best conditions June 10, 
1865, and the same year, in a charming 
villa on Lake Luzerne, he set about com- 
pleting "Die Meistersinger," probably his 

Wagner: His Life and Theories. 247 

best opera, in the mind of the author the 
best opera of the entire repertoire of the 

This was no story of gods and demigods, 
no ponderous national myth, but a delightful 
tale of human joys and sorrows, a perfect 
picture of mediaeval life, a sittenbild, and 
possessing a libretto (Wagner always wrote 
his own librettos) equal to the comedies of 
the great masters of literature. It was in 
some degree an autobiography, certainly as 
much so as " David Copperfield " was Dick- 
ens's own life-story, Sachs being meant for 
Liszt, Beckmesser for Hiller, and Walther 
for Wagner himself. This glorious opera 
was first produced in Munich June 21, 1868. 

In 1870 Wagner married the divorced 
wife of Von Billow, Cosima, the illegitimate 
daughter of Liszt. One cannot place this 
love-story quite beside the pure tale of 
Schumann and Clara Wieck, yet there are 
points of similarity, and as Clara Schumann 

248 Great Composers and Their Work. 

devoted her whole long life to making the 
works of her dead husband known to the 
world, so Madame Wagner lives to spread 
the propaganda of the school of the future, 
the operas of her idolized spouse. If we 
can set aside the fact that there was much 
that was illicit in this passion, that the 
marriage and subsequent happiness was built 
upon the sorrows of others, then the union 
was a glorious one. Cosima Wagner wor- 
shipped her husband and understood him ; 
she became his inspiration, his true help- 
mate, and he gave to her as much affection 
as his art-love had left in his being. 

One may study the perfection of the hap- 
piness of this pair in the " Siegfried Idylle," 
a lightly scored but beautiful composition, in 
which Wagner celebrates his wife and son 
(Siegfried), and which was written secretly 
and performed as a birthday surprise to his 
wife, early one morning, on the staircase of 
the little villa of Lake Luzerne. One may 

Wagner: His Life and Theories. 249 

study the affection of the wife in the daily 
events of the last days in Venice, 1 in the 
loving care with which Wagner's working 
hours were guarded, in the semi-insanity of 
grief which followed his death. 

And now there came the culmination of 
the great career ; the mighty " Ring of the 
Nibelungs," the great trilogy, was approach- 
ing completion ; the king had desired a the- 
atre for the performance in Munich, but 
Wagner finally decided on Bayreuth for the 
edifice. Assistance came from all over the 
world ; volunteers for the first performances 
came by hundreds from the ranks of the 
very greatest musicians, and in August, 
1875, the work which had seemed an im- 
possibility was actually presented, and more 
wonderful still, it became part of the stand- 
ard repertoire of all the chief opera-houses 
of the world within a few years of its first 
performance at Bayreuth ! 

1 Elson's " History of German Song." 

250 Great Composers and Their Work. 

There came still another work after the 
trilogy ; in " Parsifal " one finds all the 
theories of the composer carried out to 
the fullest extent. 

In the autumn of 1882 Wagner and his 
family went to Venice. As early as the 
Christmas of that year he seems to have 
suffered in health, and to have felt some 
premonition of his death. He died very 
suddenly at the Palazzo Vendramini, his 
Venice residence, February 13, 1883. 

Whether the world will accept all of the 
theories which Wagner has promulgated and 
practically carried out in his later operas, 
may be doubted ; melody will possibly hold 
its own against the freer " Melos " which 
Wagner believed in. The value of Wagner 
as a model for future composers may well be 
minimized ; Astyanax cannot be Hector, the 
thunderbolts of Jove cannot be launched by 
every mortal. There is, and can be, no 
Wagner school in music, any more than 

Wagner: His Life and Theories. 251 

there is a Shakespeare school of poets. 
Wagner stands a monolith ; the attempts of 
young Germany to bring forth more Wag- 
ners are leading only to dissonance, vague- 
ness, and a distortion of music from its 
proper functions. 

Yet Wagner has put music on a higher 
level ; operatic works have left the channel 
of silliness and conventionality in which they 
were drifting, since his works have cleared 
the atmosphere ; even those who do not copy 
him, as Verdi, St. Saens, Gounod, etc., have 
yet felt his influence. Wagner's combative 
nature, and his desire to impress his theories, 
sometimes led him too far (as in the revised 
" Tannhauser " music), and the blue pencil 
is even now being freely employed by ear- 
nest Wagner disciples ; but after all the sub- 
tractions have been made, after all the 
pedants have had their fling, the greatest 
musical genius of the last half of the nine- 
teenth century will still be Richard Wagner. 



IN 1799 the following criticisms were 
printed in the "Allgemeine Musikzeitung " 
regarding Beethoven ; the first relates to 
the variations on " Une Fievre Brulante : " 

" Many of the modulations may be regarded in 
any and every way, they will still be and remain flat, 
and the more learned and pretentious they strive to 
be, the flatter they become. There are too many 
variations published nowadays, without the com- 
posers endeavoring to know what real variation 

The next relates to the Trio, Opus 1 1 : 

" Mr. Beethoven could give us pieces of great 
excellence, if he would but write more naturally, and 
without so much learned affectation." 

Johannes Brahms. 253 

And the following (June, 1799) relates to 
Opus 10, three sonatas : 

" They are loaded with useless difficulties. After 
all the labor and study of playing them, they contain 
no pleasure worth the pains. Mr. Van Beethoven 
goes his own path, and a dreary, eccentric, and tire- 
some path it is ; learning, learning, and nothing but 
learning, but not a bit of nature or melody. And 
after all, it is but a crude and undigested learning, 
without method or arrangement, a seeking after 
curious modulations, a hatred of ordinary progres- 
sions, a heaping up of difficulties, until all the 
pleasure and patience are lost." 

It is appropriate to begin our study of 
Brahms with a reference to these criticisms, 
for very nearly the same animadversions are 
poured upon his head to-day by many critics. 
He is called an ascetic in music, a pedant, a 
seeker after ugliness, and what not. Very 
justly has Liszt called the musical critics 
" the rear guard of the musical army in its 
march of progress." To the earnest musi- 

254 Great Composers and Their Work. 

cal student, Brahms speedily becomes the 
only legitimate successor of Beethoven, 
the only man who has been able to rival 
the great symphonist in the domain of devel- 
opment and treatment of large instrumental 
forms, while in the vocal field Brahms is 
even Beethoven's superior. Had Brahms 
had a more chequered career, a fiercer battle 
with life, his emotional power would have been 
greater, and he would have been the abso- 
lute rival of his great predecessor. Brahms 
was born at Hamburg, May 7, 1833, and 
died at Vienna, April 3, 1897. His life is 
peculiarly scant in those events which seem 
to garnish the biographies of the great com- 
posers ; there was little of " Sturm und 
Drang," little of combat with affliction, it 
was the life of a student who desired nothing 
better than to work at his art all his days. 

His father was contrabass player at the 
Hamburg Theatre. His mother is scarcely 
known to history at all; her maiden name 

Johannes Brahms. 255 

was Johanna Nissen, and her son loved her 
tenderly, his greatest work being inspired by 
his one great life-sorrow, her death. The 
chief teacher of the boy was Eduard Marx- 
sen, of Altona, the Hamburg suburb, who 
laid a splendid classical foundation. At 
fourteen the lad made a very successful 
public appearance, but, unspoiled by this, 
he went into retirement again for five years' 
further study. When he again appeared, 
he was a musical giant. He now made a 
tour with Remenyi, the Hungarian violinist, 
through some of the German cities. Re- 
menyi has described to the author the first 
meeting with Liszt. The pair had travelled 
all day, yet the violinist determined to intro- 
duce the young composer to the great pianist 
at once. Liszt received both very graciously, 
and soon sat down at the piano to play some 
of his most recent works ; at the end of a 
rather long work Liszt turned around, only 
to behold young Brahms comfortably asleep 

256 Great Composers and Their Work. 

in an armchair ! The rest of the interview 
was on a more frigid basis. 

But there was another artistic interview 
soon to follow, which was to bear much 
greater fruit. At Gottingen the pair gave 
a concert under difficulties, for when they 
came to try the piano provided, they found 
it so low in pitch that Beethoven's great 
"Kreutzer Sonata," which was on the pro- 
gramme, would have lost all its brilliancy 
had the violin tuned down to it. Brahms, 
the youth of nineteen years, thereupon tran- 
sposed the entire work from A to B flat, 
playing it from memory ! The herculean 
task had its immediate reward ; the greatest 
living violinist, Joachim, was present, and 
at once gave the pianist a letter of intro- 
duction to Schumann. At Dusseldorf the 
pair met ; Schumann was already in his 
decadence (this was in October, 1853, only 
four months before his attempt at suicide), 
but he was still keenly alive to genius in 

Johannes Brahms. 257 

others, and, after hearing the lad play, he 
rushed to seek his Clara, and have her join 
in his homage to the rising star. He had 
long since retired from active journalism, 
but, inspired by the playing of Brahms and 
the worth of his compositions, he again took 
up his pen, and wrote an article of the 
utmost importance. The essay entitled 
"Neue Bahnen" ("New Paths"), in the 
"Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik," by Schu- 
mann, spoke of Brahms as springing full- 
fledged into the arena of Art, as Minerva 
sprang from the brain of Jove ; it alluded 
to his sonatas as "veiled symphonies," it 
spoke of the modesty of the new master, 
and it gave him the welcome of his comrades 
at his beginning of the warfare of Art, 
" where wounds perhaps may await him, but 
also laurels." 

This article riveted the attention of the 
entire musical world upon Brahms. Victor 
Hugo has said, "There is no heavier bur- 

258 Great Composers and Their Work. 

den than a great name acquired too soon ; " 
but in the case of this young giant, although 
the burden may have come very suddenly, 
it was not too soon. He was not spoiled by 
the great eulogium, but after a few tours 
with Joachim and Stockhausen, and a few 
seasons spent as director at Detmold, we 
find him again immersing himself in further 
studies. In 1862 he went to Vienna, where 
he remained almost constantly until his death. 
In 1 866 his mother died, and he sought refuge 
from his grief in writing a " German Re- 
quiem " (not a requiem mass), which may 
be regarded as one of the masterpieces of 
modern times. In his " Song of Destiny," 
he also showed his power in union of chorus 
and orchestra. Less successful was the 
"Song of Triumph," for in this partisan 
work he celebrates the victory of Germany 
over France, and the highest forms of art 
are never found in such sectional music. 
In his symphonies Brahms seems to have 

Johannes Brahms. 259 

been the only composer who was able to 
give works of long breath such as Beethoven 
had achieved ; he builds in the largest pro- 
portions without stumbling or stammering ; 
he was one of the very few who could attain 
vastness without straining. It was probably 
this ease in dealing with large proportions 
that Biilow had in mind when he spoke of 
the greatest music being summed up in " the 
three Bs, Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms ! " 

Brahms had no theories to promulgate , 
he gave forth his music and then let it 
stand for itself. He achieved success in 
every department of composition, symphony, 
overture, sonata, song, choral work, chamber 
music, concerto, etc., etc. He was the 
greatest leader in the classical advance of 
our time ; he was the most practised, the 
most thoughtful and learned composer of 
our epoch. 

Whether we enjoy Brahms or not, and 
there are many who do not grasp his sub- 

260 Great Composers and Their Work. 

tility of treatment, we dare not turn aside 
from his works with sneers such as those 
which were pointed against Beethoven by 
the critics quoted at the beginning of this 
chapter ; we must earnestly study what he 
has to tell us. No man who has studied 
deeply, and who is entirely in earnest, is 
unworthy of respectful hearing. If one can 
cultivate a real appreciation of this com- 
poser's work (we may acknowledge that 
there is some hypocrisy and pseudo-appre- 
ciation in the modern concert-room), one is 
sure of having conquered something of the 
intellectual side of music. Nor is the emo- 
tional side entirely absent, although one may 
admit that it is not in such equipose with 
the intellectual as was the case with Beetho- 
ven. Much more than Wagner's, the music 
of Brahms is the "Music of the Future," 
for it requires much study and pondering; 
it does not always charm at a single hear- 
ing; posterity will do more unanimous 

Johannes Brahms. 261 

homage than the present to the Browning 
of Music. 

Brahms' s personal character was not un- 
like that of Beethoven ; he was arbitrary in 
musical matters, rough in his ways, furiously 
severe with any who trifled with music. 

The fatal nature of his final disease, 
cancer of the liver, was well known to the 
physicians and to a few intimate friends 
some time before his death, but the secret 
was so faithfully guarded that the composer 
knew nothing of it, and worked on calmly 
until very near his end. This, however, re- 
sulted in his leaving no legal will (for not 
all composers die paupers), and it is dubious 
if the legacies intended by the composer, to 
aid indigent musicians, will ever be carried 
out. But his richest legacy to the world, 
his lofty compositions, requires no testament 
to make it effective. 



THERE is probably no single biography in 
music which shows the change that has 
taken place in operatic composition in our 
time so graphically as that of Giuseppe 
Verdi. He began his work on the lines 
of Rossini and Donizetti, he culminated it 
on the dramatic principles of Gluck. He 
emphatically denies that he has in any 
degree followed Wagner, yet it was prob- 
ably the example of Wagner which caused 
him to turn from the silliest librettos to 
poetic subjects in his operas, from catchy 
melodies of the whistling order to contin- 
uous harmonies and dramatic phrases, from 

Giuseppe Verdi. 263 

meaningless bravoura to earnest portrayal 
of sentiment. 

Verdi was born October 10, 1813 (the 
same year that witnessed the advent of 
Wagner into the world), at the little hamlet 
of Roncole. He was, like Haydn, of the 
humblest extraction, his birthplace being not 
much more than a hovel, a little country 
shop and inn of the most unpretentious kind. 

That he had an early love for music is 
proven by the fact that his father bought 
him a spinet when the boy was seven years 
old, and still further by the fact that this 
spinet was repaired gratis by a tuner named 
Cavaletti, who was so delighted by the lad's 
abilities upon the instrument that he offered 
him this early homage. At the age of ten 
the boy became organist of the little church 
at Roncole, not a very important post, as the 
salary from the second year only amounted 
to about forty lire about eight dollars 

264 Great Composers and Their Work. 

Because of his gifts the boy drifted 
naturally to the neighboring town of Bus- 
seto, three miles away. In Busseto he 
found a devoted friend in Antonio Barezzi. 

Barezzi was a man of considerable prom- 
inence through all the province, a distiller, 
and a merchant of considerable means ; he 
was also a lover of music, and made many 
artists welcome in his hospitable mansion. 
He took Verdi into his service, and also 
gave him opportunities to develop the genius 
which he recognized in the peasant boy. 
Verdi had a chance to attend the rehearsals 
of the Philharmonic Society, which took 
place in Barezzi's house ; finally the atten- 
tion of the leader of the society, who was 
also organist of the cathedral at Busseto, 
a good musician named Provesi, was drawn 
to the lad, and eventually Verdi became his 
pupil, continuing with the Busseto master 
until his sixteenth year. 

At this time Barezzi obtained a grant of 

Giuseppe Verdi. 265 

six hundred lire per annum for two years for 
the lad who had already shown strong ten- 
dencies towards composition. This grant was 
made by an institution with an especial fund 
for poor musicians ; to this slim annual in- 
come Barezzi added a good sum for tuition 
and sent Verdi off to the musical centre of 
Italy Milan. 

Now followed an astonishing blow : Fran- 
cesco Easily refused to receive him in the 
Milan Conservatory on the ground that he 
lacked musical talent ! With Verdi rejected 
from the Milan Conservatory, and Liszt and 
Rubinstein turned away from the Paris Con- 
servatoire, one may consider conservatories as 
often too conservative. After this rebuff 
Verdi went to Lavigna in Milan, who became 
his first real instructor in the intricacies of 
composition. There are many anecdotes, 
probably false, regarding the phenomenal 
ability which the young Verdi displayed in 
counterpoint at this time, one authority 

266 Great Composers and Their Work. 

going so far as to say that the young man 
improvised a double canon on a theme given 
him by Lavigna at his first visit to that 
teacher. When it is borne in mind that even 
in his great Requiem Verdi evades sustained 
contrapuntal work, and that the finale of 
" Falstaff " is the greatest height in counter- 
point that he ever attained, such biographical 
fictions may be dismissed with short shrift. 
But that Verdi soon began to write boldly is 
incontestable. Before his public career had 
fairly begun Barezzi gave Verdi a proof of 
his friendship by allowing the penniless 
youth to wed his daughter. Verdi was at 
this time twenty-two years of age. He very 
soon set out for Milan again, and here he at 
once made another warm friend in Merelli, 
the manager of La Scala, the great opera 
house of the city. 

Merelli produced Verdi's first opera, 
" Oberto di San Bonifacio," at La Scala, No- 
vember 17, 1839. It will be seen that Verdi 

Giuseppe Verdi. 267 

was not a precocity in composition, for at 
the time that his first opera was completed 
he was twenty-six years old. The opera was 
successful and Merelli entered into a con- 
tract with Verdi for further works. The 
next opera was a comic one, " Un Giorno 
di Regno," and never was a comic opera 
written under such mournful and tragic 
circumstances : the composer's entire fam- 
ily, wife, son, and daughter, died within a 
few days of each other. The comic opera 
was produced and made an absolute failure ; 
not until more than a half century later did 
Verdi attempt another in his " Falstaff." 

In these dark days Merelli stood by Verdi 
grandly. He was rewarded for his loyalty, for 
the next opera which Verdi gave to him was 
a tremendous popular success ; it was " Na- 
bucco," performed March 9, 1842, and with 
this opera Verdi's actual public career com- 
menced. After this success followed suc- 
cess. The soprano who helped the success 

268 Great Composers and Their Work. 

of "Nabucco," Giuseppina Strepponi, after- 
wards became Verdi's second wife. She died 
in 1898. 

After his next opera "I Lombardi" 
Verdi had Italy secure. He became its most 
popular composer. At this time, however, 
he was content to win his public by any and 
all means, a la Meyerbeer ; his librettos were 
produced by a literary hack, a veritable slave 
to Verdi, named Solera, and Solera's suc- 
cessor to the post of Verdi's literary pur- 
veyor was kept in the same debased condition. 
Verdi was, at this time, high tempered, coarse 
and uneducated, and regarded his operatic 
books merely as pegs whereon to hang his 
melodies ; the more honor to him that he 
finally saw the error of this mesalliance of 
poetry and music, and in his later operas 
called true poets to his aid. 

To illustrate the carelessness he displayed 
regarding his plots it may be stated that, when 
he wrote " Un Ballo in Maschera " for Naples, 

Giuseppe Verdi. 269 

the police forbade the performance, since a 
king was assassinated in the ball scene, which 
might be an incital to the Neapolitans to go 
and do likewise ; Verdi nonchalantly com- 
manded his librettist to change the king 
into the Duke of Mantua, which was done. 
The police were still dissatisfied, whereupon 
Verdi caused his poetaster to change the 
whole affair to America; eventually it was 
the " Governor of Boston " ( ! ! ) who was 
murdered, at a masked ball, probably given 
by the Puritans in the old Province House ! 
When Mario, the handsome tenor, found the 
Puritan garb too plain to display his charms, 
Verdi said, " Dress it as you please," where- 
fore the Governor of Calvinistic Boston 
danced his sprightliest in the full costume 
of a Spanish cavalier ! If one contrasts this 
with the Wagnerian strivings after dramatic 
unity, the width of the gulf between the 
schools will be appreciated. 

Verdi was fortunate at this time in curry- 

270 Great Composers and Their Work. 

ing political favor with the young Italian 
patriots. In the Austrian provinces of Italy 
it was treason for advocates of United Italy 
to shout for Victor Emmanuel, but in a short 
time all these lovers of liberty were crying, 
" Viva Verdi ! " The key to this puzzle is to 
be found in the separate letters of the com- 
poser's name. " Viva Verdi " really meant 
"Viva Vittore Emmanuele, Re D'ltalia!" 

Verdi, in this early period, tried his hand 
at setting Shakespeare to music, but in a 
very different manner from the later set- 
tings, when in "Othello" and " Falstaff " 
he drew the best Italian Shakesperian, 
Boito, to his aid. Imagine Macduff singing 
a liberty aria, with such words as, 

" Our country forsaken 
Our tears should awaken, 
'Gainst tyrants' oppression 
Our spirits shall rise." 

The bard of Avon was unrecognizable, 
but the audience easily recognized the patri- 

Giuseppe Verdi. 27 1 

otic sentiment, and joined so vociferously in 
the chorus that the police soon took a hand 
in the proceedings. 

In 1 849 Verdi seemed to enter upon a 
new period of growth. Such operas as 
" La Traviata " or " Rigoletto " may be 
classed as a second period in the develop- 
ment of the composer. The orchestra 
begins to have more significance than a 
mere accompaniment, and, occasionally, one 
finds touches of high dramatic power. The 
quartette in " Rigoletto," for example, can 
be judged by the highest standards of dra- 
matic art, and it will not be found wanting. 
The temptation in Verdi's path may be 
clearly shown by the statement that the 
Italian public cared less for this great num- 
ber than for the vapid tenor solo, " La Donna 
e Mobile," and Verdi knew perfectly well 
beforehand that this would be the case, 
keeping the melody profoundly secret from 
everybody but the tenor, and playing it as 

272 Great Composers and Their Work. 

his trump card at the performance. "La 
Traviata " began with a semi-failure from 
a physical cause. It may be borne in mind 
that here the heroine (actually Dumas's 
"Camille") dies of consumption. It is 
rather difficult to obtain an opera singer who 
looks near to death from this cause. Verdi 
had proceeded with his usual carelessness in 
the matter, and when the doctor, in the last 
act, said of the prima donna of two hundred 
and fifty pounds, " In a few short hours she 
will be dead of consumption ! " the house 
began to reecho to shouts of laughter, and 
the performance ended in hilarity. 

Verdi was, however, now world-famous ; 
operas for Paris, for Russia, for Egypt, were 
ordered in quick succession. And now the 
composer began to show the stamina that 
was in him ; he drew towards a loftier, more 
truly dramatic style of expression. This 
third period shows its dawn in " Don Car- 
los," but it shines forth in its full glory in 

Giuseppe Verdi. 273 

"Aida," written at the command of the 
Khedive of Egypt for the. opening of the 
Grand Opera House at Cairo, December 
24, 1871. Here we find a true wedding of 
text and tones, sustained dramatic power, 
noble orchestration, in short everything that 
distinguishes the great Verdi of the third 
period from the paltry Verdi of his first 
period. In 1874 the Manzoni Requiem 
proved that there was to be no recession, 
for it is a work full of power and beauty. 

In 1887 the septuagenarian brought forth 
his greatest work, this time a Shakesperian 
setting that intensified instead of perverted 
the great poet. The librettist, Arrigo 
Boito, must share in this triumph, for he 
gave to Verdi a libretto that awakens enthu- 
siasm. At more than eighty years of age 
the composer, still showing no signs of 
decay, brought forth his second comic 
opera, " Falstaff," a fine work, yet not to be 
ranked with "Othello" or "Aida" in power. 

274 Great Composers and Their Work. 

In "Falstaff" and "Othello" Verdi has 
left the domain of pretty melody altogether ; 
the continuity of the modern school is in 
these two operas, and the music is dramatic 
rather than merely tuneful. 

One must pay homage to Verdi for 
changing of his own accord from a meretri- 
cious style to an earnest one. This change 
has been acknowledged by even the severest 
critics. Von Billow, who began by despising 
Verdi, ended by honoring him, and all Ger- 
many has followed his example. Italy bows 
to Verdi as the founder of a newer and 
purer school of Italian opera; thus Verdi 
has become a great leader in the modern 
musical advance; beginning by writing 
down to his public, he ended by drawing his 
public upward to a higher domain of art, 
and by arresting the decay which seemed to 
have settled like a blight upon the opera in 



WE have already reviewed the line of 
operatic composers in France, but it is due 
to that country to speak of the orchestral 
development which has been a growth of 
its most modern epoch. This orchestral 
school which has brought forth such men 
as Saint Sae'ns, Massenet, Franck (who has 
done good service in other directions as 
well), Bizet, and many others, had its real 
beginning in the orchestral scores of Ber- 
lioz. Although Berlioz has composed opera, 
oratorio, cantata, and other choral works, it 
is by his wonderful skill and brilliancy in 
scoring that he has influenced not only the 

276 Great Composers and Their Work. 

orchestral music of France, but of the entire 

Hector Berlioz was born at Cdte St. 
Andre, December n, 1803. He was the 
son of a physician who was an opium eater, 
and much that was unbalanced and morbid 
in the son may be traced to this vice of the 
parent. Amid many trials and privations he 
studied at the Paris Conservatoire, not the 
least of these trials being the fixed enmity 
of Cherubini, whose classical style was 
entirely antagonistic to the fierce and dra- 
matic school of the young composer. He 
was deemed unfit even to compete for the 
Prix de Rome, and this denial caused the 
father to call him back from Paris to his 
country home. Such deep dejection followed 
the return, however, that the anxious father 
permitted his second departure for Paris and 
a musical career. 

In Paris he saw a beautiful Irish actress, 
a Miss Harriet Smithson, who was perform- 

Other Influences in Modern Music. 277 

ing Shakespearian plays in the French me- 
tropolis, and at once fell in love with her. 
It was a long time before the poverty-stricken 
young composer could bring himself to the 
notice of the successful actress, but he event- 
ually succeeded. The great " Symphonic 
Fantastique" was the love-letter which 
eventually caused her to understand the 
passion that she had inspired. The " Romeo 
and Juliet " symphony is another outcome 
of the episode. The pair were eventually 
married ; it is a pity that one cannot add, 
"They lived happily ever afterwards," but 
the truth must be told that it was a very 
unhappy union. The actress met with an 
accident that caused her to withdraw from 
the stage, she was utterly unable to become 
a helpmate to the struggling composer, she 
eventually took to drink, and a separation 
ensued. Berlioz subsequently married a 
Mile. Recio, a singer with a small voice 
and a large conceit, and outlived her, the 

278 Great Composers and Their Work. 

second mother-in-law taking care of him after 
her daughter's death. Berlioz had one son, 
Louis, by his first marriage, who died in 
young manhood. 

Berlioz was a man who was not daunted 
by obstacles ; he was a born fighter, as it is 
necessary for a pioneer and reformer to be. 
After the denial of the right to compete for 
the great prize of the Institute, mentioned 
above, he entered the lists four times more, 
and finally won the coveted reward. 

His " Symphonic Fantastique " not only 
won him his wife, but a strange pecuniary 
reward as well. The work was given under 
the direction of the composer in Paris, when, 
at the close of the performance, a weird- 
looking man sprang upon the platform, kissed 
the composer's hand, and rushed away. The 
next day there came a letter from the un- 
known, who proved to be the great Paganini, 
the king of all violinists, enclosing 20,000 
francs as a token of his appreciation of the 

Other Influences in Modern Music, 279 

composer's merit. Paganini was such an 
arrant miser during all his life that some 
French biographers believe that he was only 
the agent of some wealthy admirer of Berlioz 
who desired to keep himself in the back- 
ground, but one can well believe that this 
morbid symphony would pull at the heart- 
strings of the dark and sinister Paganini. 

Berlioz was denounced by all the musical 
critics of his day in Paris ; he himself was a 
musical critic and reviewer, and this added 
fuel to the flame, for brotherly love is very 
seldom found among reviewers in the musi- 
cal field. He once took a very ingenious 
revenge upon his antagonistic reviewers. In 
his delvings among old libraries he came 
across an old work, probably of the seven- 
teenth century, "L'Enfance du Christ," by 
an unknown composer, Pere Ducr6. He 
caused this to be performed ; all the critics 
of Paris burst forth in eulogy of the compo- 
sition, and some ventured to tell Berlioz that 

280 Great Composers and Their Work. 

he had better leave his sensationalism, and 
study the pages of this same Pere Ducre"! 
Then came the bombshell ! Berlioz suddenly 
retorted with the statement that there was 
no Pere Ducre" 7 He proved that he himself 
had written the work in question, and had 
turned the tables upon his adversaries by one 
of the neatest of practical jokes ! They did 
not cherish him any the more because of this. 
But there was and is some truth in the 
attacks made upon Berlioz ; he is morbid 
and sensational in most of his work ; he may 
be called the Edgar Allen Poe of Music, 
yet his management of the orchestra was 
marvellous, and he may be regarded as the 
first Frenchman who thoroughly developed 
orchestral resources. Sometimes his effects 
were in the nature of experiments, and often 
his music was affectedly intricate. Wagner 
said of him, " He ciphers with notes ; " 
but he was none the less the pioneer of a 
new school. 

Other Influences in Modern Music. 281 

His works were in almost every branch 
of composition. Probably the great effort 
of his life was made in an opera " Les 
Troyens " which has never had a fair 
hearing, the performances of Wagner's 
" Tannhauser " in Paris, already described, 
preventing its intended launching. His 
Requiem may be regarded as the most 
ambitious score (in number of parts and 
instruments employed) in existence. His 
" Damnation of Faust " is a work full of 
beauty and diablerie in about equal propor- 
tions. His symphonies are not in the 
accustomed form, but are marvels of or- 
chestration. It is on the orchestral side 
that Berlioz wins the admiration of the 
critic, he is the tone-colorist par excellence, 
the Titian of music. He has used pro- 
gramme music in symphony more than any 
other composer. He won many honors in 
Germany, Austria, and Russia, but the 
French were too new to orchestral devices 

282 Great Composers and Their Work. 

to understand their compatriot during his 
lifetime. Berlioz died March 8, 1869. 


There could be no wider contrast in musi- 
cal biography than that afforded by the life 
of Franz as against such a career as the one 
just described ; the one all frenzied and sen- 
sational, the other calm and serene ; the one 
pressing forward towards new fields, the 
other resting tranquilly upon the old mas- 
ters. In one respect the art career of Franz 
may be compared with that of Chopin, he 
achieved all his fame in a single field of 
composition. Chopin's renown rests wholly 
upon his piano compositions ; Franz's fame 
is built entirely upon his songs. Franz was 
the legitimate successor of Schubert and 
Schumann in the field of lieder. His nature 
was so retiring, his life so quiet, his works 
in such a small form, that the world does 
not even now comprehend what a master 

Other Influences in Modern Music. 283 

Robert Franz was. He was born June 28, 
1815, at Halle, the German university town, 
a pious and quiet old city which possibly 
moulded the quiet nature of the musician. 
He appreciated music at two years of age, 
for he has assured the author of his recol- 
lecting a chorale which he heard in his 
nurse's arms. The music in the family was 
of the religious type, the father singing 
chorales every evening, to the great delight 
of his musical son. The boy was threatened 
with a flogging at school for constantly im- 
provising an alto part to the melodies which 
the pupils sang in unison, the teacher not 
comprehending any deviation from the 
printed copy. 

Franz picked up sufficient organ -play ing 
in his home to attempt an occasional chorale 
accompaniment in church, and, as a boy, 
used to run from church to church in Halle 
in the hope of substituting, gratis, for the 
organist, during the congregational singing. 

284 Great Composers and Their Work. 

His father was opposed to his taking up a 
musical career, but when the crucial time 
arrived his mother stood his staunch friend, 
and at twenty he left Halle for Dessau, 
where he studied under Schneider. He 
was nurtured in the good old school of 
the Chorales, of Bach, and of the classical 
masters. He returned to Halle a most 
unpractical youth, seemingly unable to make 
his way in any path, not technically able 
to appear as a public performer, spend- 
ing nights and days in the study of the 
old Italian and German composers and 
the works of Schubert, whom he loved 

Six years of aimless waiting ensued, dur- 
ing which Franz composed song after song 
only to lock each one up in his desk after 
completion. At last, in 1843, ne deter- 
mined to publish something. Twelve songs 
were selected from his pile of manuscripts. 
Through Schumann these found an imme- 

Other Influences in Modern Music. 285 

diate recognition and a publisher. Never 
was such an Opus i ; Liszt, Schumann, and 
other critics sang the praises of the new 
sunburst royally. 

A position came in the train of these 
Lieder, and Franz was made director of the 
Sing-Akademie of his town. Here he lived 
in absolute retirement all his days. He 
loved to fill out the skeleton scores of the 
old masters with the necessary additional 
accompaniments, a labor of self-abnegation 
for which he has not received due credit, 
some reviewers even blaming the modest 
master with filling in appropriate counter- 
point where the sparsely orchestrated works 
of Bach and Handel required it. 

Franz married a musical wife, Marie 
Hinrichs, who also has given forth some 
worthy compositions. Gradually poverty 
settled down upon the modest household, 
and at this juncture an alarming deafness 
came upon the composer so that he was 

286 Great Composers and Their Work, 

obliged to give up his directorship ; the 
wolf was at the door. Fortunately in this 
case we are spared the necessity of telling 
a tale of starvation and pauperism, such as 
has been narrated of more than one master 
in these pages; Liszt came to the rescue. 
In 1868 "Franz Concerts" were given in 
all the great cities of the world, even Boston 
sending a large sum to the fund which 
resulted. The composer was lifted above 
all reach of poverty, and was placed per- 
manently in comfortable circumstances. 

He went on pouring forth Lieder to the 
end of his days. To a letter in which the 
author ventured to complain that one of 
the greatest modern contrapuntists should 
only leave small works behind him, Franz 
replied that he felt that there was no room 
in the large forms after Beethoven. 

He remained a musical Meissonier to his 
death. But his songs are models of what 
this form should be. In a letter to the 

Other Influences in Modern Music. 287 

author, regarding these, Franz wrote (in 
1 889) the following remarkable words : 

" There is, I am afraid, a subtler comprehension 
of music necessary than that possessed by the 
average, to discover the different phases of my 
musical expression. 

" One of the most characteristic points in the 
matter is that I do not make music to the text 
chosen, but allow the music to develop itself from 
the words. Two verses of a Heine poem run : 

" ' If your eyes are keen and bright 
And upon my songs you ponder, 
You will see a fair, young maid 
Lightly through the verses wander. 

" ' If your ears are very sharp 

You will hear her sweet voice calling, 
And her laughing, sighing, singing, 
Soon shall be your heart enthralling.' 

" Instinctively I gave my adhesion to this guidance 
of Heine, and was led to it the more by the convic- 
tion that there are more close and secret connec- 
tions existing between poetry and music than the 
narrow mind comprehends. Every truly lyrical 
poem holds latent within itself its own melody. ' " 

288 Great Composers and Their Work. 
In a later letter he says : 

" That you do justice to the power of the Lied 
gives me great pleasure. Until now many have 
looked upon this form with a compassionate shrug 
of the shoulders, and yet there rests upon it one 
of the chief factors of music. As regards myself, 
I do not for a moment regret that I have followed 
this command of my nature exclusively, and have 
brought the form into honor, along with my prede- 
cessors. Music began with the lyric, and ends 
with it, a process of development that is true of 
poetry also." 

In 1891 there comes a letter that is full 
of premonition. Franz had promised an au- 
tobiography, but writes : 

" I cannot do it ; head and hand are in too 
pitiable a condition for me to attempt anything con- 
nected with a personal description." 

Franz had at this time written about 
three hundred songs, each a gem in its way, 
songs that find their equals only in the 
works of Schubert or of Schumann. 

The world will yet come to appreciate the 

Other Influences in Modern Music. 289 

fact that Robert Franz was a genius, one of 
the great triumvirate of Lie ^-composers. 

Soon after the last letter, October 24, 1892, 
there came the end ; but \if goodness of life 
and truth to an ideal, if self-abnegation and 
lofty purpose through a long career mean 
anything, the end was but the beginning. 


There are many composers of the present 
era and of the recent past, who, while falling 
short of the rank of absolute genius, are yet 
exerting an influence upon the direction of 
the modern school of music. It would be 
impossible to mention each of these in de- 
tail, yet a short account of the schools of na- 
tional music which they furthered may best 
conclude our sketches of musical matters. 

In Bohemia, where, after the fearful rav- 
ages of the thirty years' war, art lay pros- 
trate, a musical pioneer named Smetana 
(born 1824, died, insane, in 1884) arose, and 

290 Great Composers and Their Work. 

began a school of composition that was per- 
meated with the true spirit of his native 
land. He had a pupil who carried this 
national idea still further ; this was Antonin 
Dvorak, born September 8, 1841. Like his 
teacher, Smetana, Dvorak built most of his 
music upon the rock of folk-song. This 
composer became an important factor in the 
development of American music, not only by 
using some of our Southern folk-themes in 
symphony and in chamber music, but by 
teaching composition in this country for 
some time. His chief works are a " Stabat 
Mater," a Requiem, a set of symphonies, and 
the " Spectre's Bride." 

In Russia an important school of modern 
orchestral music has arisen, and it is prob- 
able that the Russia of the near future may 
become the leading country of the world in 
some branches of music. Russia has a glo- 
rious wealth of folk-music to draw upon, and 
its first great composer, Glinka (1804-1857), 

Other Influences in Modern Music. 291 

in his operas, "Life for the Czar" and 
" Ruslan and Ludmilla," proved what beauty 
exists in the folk-songs of the land of the 
Czar. But the later composers, Borodin, 
Cui, Rimski-Korsakoff, etc., have turned to 
the modern orchestra with avidity, and have 
shown themselves strongly influenced by the 
style of Berlioz, Liszt, and Wagner. Among 
these one figure stands preeminent in or- 
chestral writing (his operas are not yet 
known in America) : 


This great composer was born in 1840, 
and died in 1894. He was gloriously na- 
tional in his music ; in symphony, in over- 
ture, in chamber music, in almost every 
domain of music, Tschaikowsky has shown 
us what the Russian school has to say when 
to the knowledge of Muscovite melodies is 
added the skill of a great composer. Tschai- 
kowsky 's last great work was the " Pathetic 

292 Great Composers and Their Work. 

Symphony," which is a threnody of great 
power. Its mournful character has caused 
the wretched musical sentimentalist to 
wreathe a story around its measures ; it is 
stated by some writers that Tschaikowsky 
wrote this in anticipation of his own death, 
and then committed suicide. There is not a 
word of truth in this ; the composer died of 
ptomaine poisoning. During the cholera 
season in St. Petersburg, when all the water 
was more or less contaminated, he ventured 
to drink a glass of unfiltered water, and very 
soon thereafter was taken ill with all the 
symptoms of cholera. There are so many 
details of the last illness given in the Rus- 
sian press that the story of suicide is utterly 

In France Massenet to-day shares with 
Saint Sae'ns the sceptre of orchestral power. 
Yet Massenet has never risen to the height 
of his competitor in purely orchestral music. 
His tendency is rather towards the operatic 

Other Influences in Modern Music. 293 

vein, and in this, especially in his " Manon," 
he is the superior of Saint Saens. 

Even Italy, which has hitherto devoted 
itself almost exclusively to the vocal side of 
music, is now coming into the orchestral 
lines, and Sgambati has made the first 
Italian efforts in the large orchestral forms, 
while Mascagni also shows an appreciation 
of the power of modern instrumentation. 

Scandinavia has an important message to 
give to the world in music, for the folk- 
music of Norway and Sweden is scarcely 
less varied and expressive than that of Rus- 
sia, and such composers as Grieg, Svendsen, 
or Lindblad have brought this new flavor 
into modern composition with great success. 

England has scarcely shared in the mod- 
ern activity ; her golden epoch was in the 
sixteenth century. The world is constantly 
vaunting the Elizabethan poets but has 
done very scant justice to the Elizabethan 
contrapuntists. The madrigals of Weelkes, 

294 Great Composers and Their Work, 

Wilbye, Farrant, Morley, the anthems which 
were brought forth by these and other com- 
posers at this epoch and are still the glory 
of the Episcopal Church, place the England 
of 1550-1625 abreast of any musical nation 
of its time, even though no Palestrina or 
Di Lasso appeared. The musical genius of 
England, Purcell, appeared later. In the 
present day England presents an Irishman 
and a semi-German as her chief composers, 
Dr. Villiers Stanford and F. H. Cowen be- 
ing her chief symphonic composers, although 
Macfarren and Sullivan have achieved suc- 
cesses in other fields of composition. The 
latter, Sir Arthur Sullivan, when studying at 
Leipzig was believed by his teachers to be 
destined to become England's greatest com- 
poser. He might indeed have become so 
but for the fact that the comic opera muse 
soon claimed him, and forbade him the 
highest fame while filling his pocketbook 
beyond the usual lot of composers. No 

Other Influences in Modern Music. 295 

man can serve two masters. Sullivan has 
fallen short of true greatness in his grand 
opera, his oratorio, and his cantata work, but 
he deserves the thanks of the world for 
elevating comic opera above the indelicate 
level where the French composers had 
placed it. Many other composers of merit 
might be named in connection with Eng- 
land's recent musical history, Mackenzie, 
Parry, Doctor Bridge, Barnby, and many 
other names might be cited to show that 
the mother country is not idle in art, and 
a decidedly higher standard has been estab- 
lished than was the case when William 
Sterndale Bennet, or Balfe, or William 
Vincent Wallace, or Bishop, ruled British 

In Germany there seems to be a momen- 
tary retrogression caused by an attempt to 
out-Wagner Wagner, and while such com- 
posers as Raff (1822-1882), Rheinberger, 
and, in Austria, Goldmark, are upholding 

296 Great Composers and Their Work. 

form and intelligible harmony as well as 
melody, a misguided genius, Richard Strauss, 
is leading his muse through the brambles 
instead of along the highroad of art, and 
he, in turn, has many imitators who have 
not his great orchestral power; thus music, 
too, is beginning to have its Maeterlincks, 
its impressionist school, and there are not 
wanting virulent attacks on symphony, so- 
nata, on everything that has form or sym- 
metrical architecture. 

It would be impossible in a work of this 
brief description to do justice to the musical 
advance that has taken place in America. 
The wonderful strides that have been made 
in painting and in literature in America 
have been duplicated in music ; a land which 
a half century ago had no composers now 
possesses a number of men (and even a 
few women) who can do creditable work in 
the largest musical forms. American com- 
positions begin to take their place upon 

Other Influences in Modern Music. 297 

European concert programmes, and the 
highest standard is being rapidly attained. 
From the study of the past one can in 
some degree prophesy the future. After 
becoming exhausted in pursuing the Wag- 
ner will-o'-the-wisp, the great composers 
will return to a more melodic, a more 
symmetrical basis. They will not recede 
from the wonderful orchestration which 
Wagner, Berlioz, Richard Strauss, and 
others have established, but they will com- 
bine with it something of the purer classi- 
cal school, so that, while the composer of 
the future may possess the passion of the 
present school, he will also combine with 
it something of the limpid purity and mel- 
ody of a Mozart, the figure treatment of a 
Beethoven, and the contrapuntal ease of a 



Adam de la Hale, 12-16. 
Albrechtsberger, 106. 
Auber, 200, 203, 225. 

Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel, 

5, 54, 'S3- 
Bach, John Christopher, 48- 

Bach, John Sebastian, 46- 

57, 65, 66, 97, 100, 169, 

170, 173-174, 224, 228, 

259, 284, 285, 297. 
Bach, William Friedmann, 


Balfe, 295. 

Bamby, 295. 

Bartholdi, Felix Mendels- 
sohn. See Mendelssohn, 

Beer, Jacob Liebmann. See 
Meyerbeer, Giacomo. 

Beethoven, Ludwig van, 74- 
75. 77, 94, 97-125, 127, 
142-146, 149, 153, 155, 
156, 1 60, 163, 1 66, 170, 

178, 180, 181, 188, 191, 

195, 202, 215, 218, 219, 

223, 224, 252-254, 256, 259 

260, 261, 286, 297. 
Bellini, 214, 225. 
Bennet, William Sterndale, 

Berlioz, Hector, 181, 202, 

275-282, 291, 297. 
Bishop, 295. 

Bizet, Georges, 204, 275. 
Boieldieu, 200, 203. 
Borodin, 291. 
Brahms, Johannes, 127, 143, 

195, 252-261. 
Bridge, 295. 

BUlow, 161, 247, 259, 274. 
Buxtehude, 59. 

Caccini, 37. 

Carissimi, 46. 

Catel, 200. 

Cavaliere, Emilio del, 45. 

Cavalli, 38. 

Cherubini, 181, 201-204, 2 7&- 


3OO Index of Great Composers. 

Chopin, Frederic, 97, 127, 
152-162, 164-165, 1 68, 

Clementi, 153, 161. 

Cowen, F. H., 

Cui, 291. 

Czerny, 153 


D'Albert, 161. 

Des Pres, Josquin, 19, 24. 

Di Lasso, Orlando, 20-23, 

32, 35, 37, 294. 
Donizetti, 214, 236, 262. 
Dufay, William, 17-18. 
Dunstable, 16-17. 
Dvorak, Antonin, 241, 290. 

Eisner, Joseph, 154. 

Farrant, 294. 
Festa, Costanza, 26. 
Fetis, 200. 
Franck, 275. 

Franz, Robert, 126, 163, 

Gabrieli, Andrea, 25. 

Gabrieli, Giovanni, 25. 

Galileo, Vincenzo, 37. 

Glinka, 167, 291. 

Gluck, Christoph Willibald, 
39-44, 78, 96, 122, 181, 
197, 201, 210-213, 215, 

217, 220, 221, 233, 235, 
238, 262. 

Goldmark, 295. 

Gounod, Charles, 206, 207- 

209, 251. 
Gretry, 200. 
Grieg, 241, 293. 
Guido of Arezzo, 12. 

Hale"vy, 206. 

Handel, George Frederic, 

40, 46-47, 57-65, 66, 1 20, 

135, 169, 181, 285. 
Hassler, 25. 
Haydn, Franz Josef, 66-78, 

85,88, 95-96, 98, 105-106, 

120, 160, 165, 179, 201, 

223, 262. 
Herold, 206. 
Himmel, no. 
Hummel, 121. 
Hucbald of St. Amands, 


Kalkbrenner, 157. 

Keiser, Reinhardt, 39, 46, 

Kreutzer, 214. 

Lindbald, 293. 

Liszt, Franz, 157, 158, 161- 
165, 167, 180, 202, 232, 
241, 246, 247, 253, 255, 
265, 285, 286, 291. 

Lortzing, 214. 

Lully, Jean Baptiste, 38, 

Macfarren, 294. 
Mackenzie, 295. 
Marchand, 52. 
Marschner, 214. 
Martini, Padre, 80. 
Mascagni, 293. 
Massenet, 275, 292-293. 
Mattheson, 58-60, 181. 
Mehul, 200. 
Mendelssohn, Felix, 1 10, 

147, 157, 169-180, 182, 

194, 210. 

Index of Great Composers, 301 

Meyerbeer, Giacomo, 204- 
206, 210, 216, 229, 231, 
233, 246, 268. 

Monteverde, 38. 

Morley, 294. 

Moscheles, 153, 161. 

Mozart, Wolfgang Ama- 
deus, 66, 78-96, 99, 101, 
112, 120-122, 127, 148, 
150, 155, 160, 165, 179, 
181, 188, 200, 209, 216, 
224, .297. 

Muris, Jean de, 16. 

Ockemheim, John. 

Ockhegem, John, 19. 


Paderewski, 161. 
Palestrina, Giovanni Pier- 

luigi da, 26-36, 37, 44, 52, 

228, 294. 
Parry, 295. 
Pergolesi, 38. 
Peri, 37, 45. 

Piccini, Nicolo, 42-43, 217. 
Porpora, 69-70. 
Praetorius, 25. 
Purcell, Henry, 38, 197-198, 

204, 294. 

Raff, 295. 

Rameau, Jean Philippe, 199, 


Reissiger, 94. 
Reuter, George, 67. 
Rheinberger, 295. 
Richter, 200. 
Rimski-Korsakoff, 291. 
Rore, Cyprian de, 25. 

Rossini, Gioacchino, 210- 

214, 236, 262. 
Rubinstein, Anton, 161, 165, 

166-168, 202, 265. 

Saint Saens, Camille, 206, 
209-210, 251, 275, 292- 


Salieri, 129. 

Sammartini, 39. 

Scarlatti, Allessandro, 38, 
46, 122. 

Scarlatti, Domenico, 153. 

Scheidemann, 25. 

Scheldt, 25. 

Schubert, 78, 87, 94-95, 120, 
126-151, 165, 170, 191, 
195, 282, 284, 288. 

Schuetz, 46. 

Schumann, Robert, 126, 130, 
145-146, 155, 158, 168- 
170, 180-196, 206, 222, 
247, 256-257, 282, 284, 
285, 288. 

Sgambati, 293. 

Smetana, 290. 

Stanford, Dr. Villiers, 294. 

Stradella, 46. 

Strauss, Richard, 296-297. 

Sullivan, Sir Arthur, 294- 


Sussmayer, 92. 
Svendsen, 293. 

Taussig, 161. 

Thomas, Ambroise, 203, 209. 
Tschaikowsky, Peter Iliitsch 
167, 241, 291-292. 

Verdi, Giuseppe, 238, 251, 

3O2 Index of Great Composers. 

Vernio, Count, 37. 
Vogler, Abt, 181, 205, 216. 

Wagner, Wilhelm Richard, 
121, 163, 169, 180, 204, 
205, 206, 220, 221-251, 
260, 262, 269, 280-281, 
291, 295, 297. 

Wallace, William Vincent, 

Walsegg, Count von, 92. 

Weber, Carl Maria von, 94, 
181, 183, 199, 205, 214- 

22O, 221. 

Weber, Godfrey, 200. 
Weelkes, 293. 
Widor, 210. 
Wilbye, 294. 
Willaert, Adrian, 24-25. 

Zachau, 57. 
Zarlino, 25.